Receiving criticism

Managing expectations when developing the skill of receiving criticism well

Whenever we are learning a new skill it invariably takes consistent effort and time. When practicing receiving criticism well, be patient with both yourself and the process. Transformation may not come overnight but with consistent effort you’ll reach a stage where you don’t even have to think of it any more and it comes naturally.

 

Look back to last Friday’s post where you were asked to list how you would like to feel after receiving criticism and keep those notes somewhere where you will see them often to motivate you and inspire you to continue with the work.

 

Remember you are working towards an empowered, assertive you whereby no one gets away with mistreating you and you are in control of the conversation! To me that is something worth working towards!

 

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Receiving Criticism: How to keep persisting when times get tough

Let’s be frank – it’s never easy to receive criticism and most of the time it brings up very uncomfortable feelings. The good news is that with practice such as role play (never underestimate its power!) and with doing things such as inviting criticism from people you feel safe with (like friends) you’ll be able to develop your assertiveness and diplomacy skills so that it bothers you less.

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Has criticism got you anxious or stressed? How to get back to feeling fab

It’s natural to sometimes feel anxious or stressed when receiving criticism however we should never underestimate the impact anxiety and stress has on us. Both stress and anxiety can have far-reaching effects which can seep into almost all areas of our life, leaving us feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.

 

I always used to get confused between anxiety and stress but my therapist gave me an insightful way to distinguish between them. Whilst anxiety is invariably related to our perception of the future stress is a reaction to the present.

 

If you think you may be suffering with anxiety or if you often feel anxious when receiving criticism please read my article titled ‘Wars of the mind: How to effectively overcome anxiety’ which uses tried and true cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to help reduce and even overcome anxiety.

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How to handle criticism (and actually feel good about it)

The most natural reaction to criticism is to feel awful or angry. The beauty about using assertiveness techniques is that it exposes whether the criticism is justified or not and, knowing this, you are then able to decide whether to take it on board or not. But what do you do if it is justified? Do you simply curl up in a ball and feel awful and helpless? Although I have been guilty of this in the past this is very seldom helpful.

 

The good news is there are so many ways to turn the criticism around so that – rather than feeling like a lost cause and helpless – you can instead feel empowered and optimistic! It’s just a matter of seeing the criticism as an opportunity to exercise empathy and understanding towards others, gain more self awareness, develop more personal responsibility in life and grow into your best self.

 

Of course this outlook and the process of developing more empathy, personal responsibility and working on improving yourself is never easy but never underestimate the impact of rewards! When you first discover a new weakness you possess and feel low treat yourself with pick me ups and walks (a ten minute walk has been shown to significantly improve mood). Then reward yourself every time you progress in the right direction like reading a self-help book or article, reacting to small things in a new healthier way or big treats like a weekend away for when you achieve a major breakthrough.

 

Some amazing treats are:

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How to turn the tables when you feel ganged up upon

One of the hardest things to handle is when you feel ganged up upon. Whether someone criticizes you in their home or office, if an authority figure berates you or even when there are two or more people against one, it’s easy to default into defensiveness without a second thought, often fueling potential conflict. I remember when two girls at work ganged up on me years ago over office politics… I didn’t handle it too well and I recall being so angry after the exchange, not just at them but at myself for not handling it better.

 

To avoid a roller-coaster effect should this happen to you it’s important to remember the basic principles of assertiveness:

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Why your friends can be a lifeline when you receive criticism

Whenever I receive criticism it always helps – once I’ve digested things mind you – to talk it through with a friend. It’s important when considering which friend to talk it through with that you choose carefully. Someone too blunt and it can make your ego even more sensitive whilst a cheerleader friend will not necessarily tell you the complete truth and might sugar coat things.

 

This is why I always choose one of my good friends who isn’t afraid to tell me the truth but does so in a very sensitive and diplomatic way. She knows me well enough to know that I will carefully consider what she says, neither dismissing it out of hand nor taking it on board as true automatically.

 

I also always wait to share my feelings with her until I have processed the criticism fully so that I am not overly sensitive or angry about what has been said (which could easily slant the conversation). Sharing your feelings in this way is brave but when discussed with a trusted friend much insight into the validity of the criticism can be gained, increasing your self-awareness and allowing you the opportunity to practice receiving criticism gracefully. When sharing your feelings it also allows you the opportunity to feel loved and accepted no matter whether the criticism is true or false. This love and acceptance shown by friends despite our weaknesses gives us a deep sense of connection, allowing us to better acknowledge and accept our weaknesses for ourselves – which is the first step towards being able to effectively work on them.

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How to avoid criticism damaging your self-esteem

For me working upon my self-esteem has been one of the most difficult and yet rewarding endeavors I have ever undertaken in therapy. One of the biggest lessons I learnt was that my character and my character alone was how I should measure how to view myself. Once I realized this everything else fell into place.

 

I finally understood that criticism, if founded, means I have done something wrong not that I am something wrong. Once I reached this understanding the impact upon my life was profound. I used criticism as a trigger to put things right if I had wronged anyone and to correct my behavior in future; rather than berating myself for messing up, I celebrated it as an opportunity to grow.

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Should we really pick and choose our battles?

I recently had a situation at work whereby I needed to draw on all of my assertiveness training and assert myself to the most senior people in the company. Although I stood my ground it was incredibly stressful whilst I was working in what I considered to be a hostile environment. I remember one conversation when I chose to bite my tongue to the most senior person in the company, despite having very real grounds for asserting myself and disputing what he was saying.

 

The conversation was related but not about the subject matter which I initially asserted myself on so, to minimize hostility in my work life I decided to remain quiet. I chose not to dispute what he was saying. Although I’ve always held the view that it is important to stand up for yourself both diplomatically and assertively, it is sometimes wise to pick and choose your battles.

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How to call someone out when you receive a put down

Malicious criticism usually takes the form of a planned and deliberate conversation and is easily enough exposed but what should you do when you receive an off the cuff put down? The tricky thing about put downs is that they often come by surprise and are only registered as put downs by the person on the receiving end after the fact. In future follow these simple steps to let the offender know what they said was not ok and you will not tolerate treatment of that nature moving forwards.

 

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How to identify malicious or unconstructive criticism and expose those who deliver it

If someone is criticizing you and you are not being defensive and keeping an open mind it doesn’t mean that you are a walkover or that you will necessarily agree with them. Indeed, there are times when criticism is strictly unfounded, malicious and entirely unconstructive.

 

By asking the three questions outlined in yesterday’s post you will be both assertive and direct whilst keeping a calm demeanor to minimize potential conflict – all qualities that typically command respect in others. And the best bit?

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