A couple of weeks ago I put up a post on this blog titled “RESPONDING TO CRITICISM: FOUR LEVELS OF MATURITY.” After describing the four levels, I ended the post with the question, “Is there a higher level than level four?” Today I shall propose a level five:
LEVEL FIVE. In addition to actions consistent with level 4, people responding to criticism in a manner consistent with level 5 seek ways to use, whenever they disagree with the criticism, a technique known as steering in the direction the criticizer would prefer to go. That is, rather than just disagreeing without being disagreeable, the criticized person seeks to find a new choice of action that creatively utilizes some aspect suggested from the criticism. Steering cannot be incorporated into all situations, but it is an additional goal of the most mature individuals.
To better understand level five, let’s take a look at a parable:
The Parable of Mr. Rodriguez
Mr. Rodriguez tells his students that next month they are going on a field trip to a museum. His class begins to criticize the trip.
“Whenever we go on field trips we always go to boring places,” says Nick.
“Why can’t we pick a place to go on a field trip?” says Jody.
“How do the rest of you feel about this?” asks Mr. Rodriguez.
“We should go to an amusement park instead!” says one girl.
“I think we should see a new movie at the mall,” says a boy.
Mr. Rodriguez thinks about this, and, at first, he says to himself, “The principal will never go along with letting the students pick a place to go on a field trip.” But then he tries to come up with a way to steer in the direction of the students’ criticism.
He comes up with an idea. “Field trips are for learning,” he tells the class. “I understand that you want to have some say as to what field trip we go on. What if I ask the principal to select three field trips she would be willing to approve, and then I ask you to choose one from the three she comes up with—would that be better?”
“Yes!” they reply.
When Mr. Rodriguez asks the principal, she declares that this is a great idea. Then, the next time Mr. Rodriguez returns to his class, he says,
“Remember yesterday I said we were going to the museum?”
“Yeah,” says Nick. “A field trip to the museum again! That’s boring!”
“Well,” replies Mr. Rodriguez, “the principle says we can choose between the museum, the zoo, or the botanical gardens?”
The students end up choosing the zoo. Mr. Rodriguez is delighted with this because the principal had him going, every year, for the last ten years, to the museum and he has grown tired of it. He’s never been to the zoo, and he and his students feel better having been given a choice.
What We Can Learn From this Parable
The way Mr. Rodriguez handled his class’s criticism is an example of a level 5 response. Although he didn’t completely agree with the students’ criticism, instead of completely rejecting it, he steered in the direction of the criticism. That is, he took the students’ ideas about their choosing the place to go on the field trip, and used it in such a way that both he and the students ended up feeling better off with the end result.
It takes a bit of creativity to come up with these types of steering plans. For those who regularly follow this blog, in coming weeks from time to time you will be provided fun activities to practice this skill and you will find yourself getting better and better at it.
Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.