At the times in my life when I have faced criticism I found it difficult not to take it as a personal assault. What was the most challenging was when those words were spoken by those closest to me, those that knew me well – those who I both loved and respected.
I find it easier to digest what has been said and objectively assess what I agree with when I reflect, often resolving to work upon the areas that I think are valid in retrospect. But in the moment I find it difficult to avoid being defensive and accept the validity of the criticism received, or parts thereof.
As I learnt about assertiveness more, I discovered ways to identify malicious criticism as opposed to genuine constructive criticism. Although put downs are easy enough to pin point genuine constructive criticism can still sound unconstructive and harsh, after all not everyone is diplomatic and sensitive in their use of language when delivering valid criticism.
In this series I will outline the techniques that have helped me deal with criticism more effectively. When it comes to criticism we no longer need to feel like a victim, we can rather empower ourselves, using it as a catalyst to grow into our best selves.
Top Tips to Distance Yourself from Defensiveness
Remind yourself you are a valuable human being who many people love
When you are emotionally hurt and feel victimized take the time to remind yourself of everyone who loves you. Remind yourself how valuable you are as a human being to so many and this will help place the criticism you are facing in a more objective perspective.
Avoid getting caught up in the delivery
I still find this difficult however this is important to try and do. If someone is being aggressive in their delivery of criticism try to distance yourself emotionally from how they are speaking to you. You can do this by imagining them speaking in a squeaky voice or in a humiliating situation, I find imagining them speaking in a squeaky voice particularly effective as it makes them appear ridiculous in my mind. Once negative emotions have subsided take the time to genuinely examine the content of what is being said.
Remind yourself that this might be an opportunity to grow and gain more self awareness
However unlikely it may appear to be, it will help you to have the perspective that any and all criticism can be used as an opportunity to grow and gain more self awareness. Of course this is not true if you identify the criticism as a malicious put down (more on how to do that later!) but it is worth realizing that in almost all criticism there is a learning opportunity for each and every one of us.
The beauty of this way of thinking is that it empowers us to use what can be a painful experience to our immediate advantage, propelling us forward in life rather than needlessly holding us back.
Do you find it difficult to receive criticism? How have you handled criticism in the past? Have you ever considered criticism as an opportunity to learn and grow? Please share your thoughts in the comments below to gain encouragement, insight and support from our community, we’d love to hear from you.
Stay tuned – next week we will explore the strategy of asking questions to better understand criticism, a technique called negative enquiry!
‘The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt’ by Deb Bright, PhD