When role playing your responses to put downs, did you feel more in control of the direction of the conversation? How did the role play make you feel? How did it help you? Thinking about the role play in this way will enable you to hone in your skills even more.
This is your opportunity to practice all the amazing things you would have said if you had thought of them in the moment (don’t worry very few of us do have an immediate reply to put downs).
Remember the key is to stand up for yourself by being assertive – this is the most effective way of putting them in their place and avoids unnecessary conflict or an unhealthy competition between one another’s put downs, which only serves to encourage and escalate the unwanted behavior.
Last week we examined how to distance ourselves from defensiveness, this week we explore the strategy of asking questions, a technique called negative inquiry.
Ask Questions; Negative Inquiry
This can be scary at first but it does get much easier with practice. Ask questions to better understand what the person means. This will not only serve to expose unwarranted and malicious criticism but, if it is warranted, give you a much better idea as to what specifically you did which caused offense, difficulty or problems.
In the moment it can be hard to think of the right questions to ask so here are the best questions to draw out more specifics from the person who has criticized you:
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.
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?
How to recognize constructive criticism when you need to (and why it often sounds so unconstructive)
Lets just say that in my experience constructive criticism can be like a wolf in sheep’s’ clothing. What may appear to be a personal assault might actually be a valid criticism and worth taking on board. There are many reasons why constructive criticism can sound and be delivered harshly. If at work the corporate or formal environment may dictate it to be so for example but more often than not those providing the constructive criticism find it both difficult and uncomfortable and are often clueless as to how to best deliver it. This needn’t mean that it is unfounded or malicious.
The best way to decipher constructive criticism is to ask some very revealing questions, such as those below but be forewarned, whilst it does take great courage to do so it is well worth it as it could identify opportunities for your own personal development and growth.
List how role playing being less defensive made you feel – did you feel more vulnerable? Perhaps better and less hurt? More receptive?
List a time you received criticism and took it badly and visualize in great detail what happened and how it made you feel.
Even the most modest people can suffer from their ego being damaged as a result of criticism and I can’t deny it was difficult to keep my ego in check when receiving criticism in the past. What helped me was remembering a few key things which reminded me that being defensive is often counter-productive. Please do bear in mind that being defensive is quite different to standing up for yourself, which I will go into in more depth later – please see below for a list of my ‘reminders’ that helped me receive criticism better.
- I am not perfect
- I make mistakes
- I can admit to my mistakes without it being equal to a failure
- I can learn from my mistakes and become better for it
- Whoever is criticizing me may be able to offer insights into ways by which I can develop and grow
- It is important to keep an open mind to different opinions to my own
We all know that receiving criticism can be very hard indeed. Often feeling like a personal attack, the instinctive thing to do is to become defensive and yet this approach can undermine growth or worse, lead to conflict. In this series I will be exploring the ways by which we can receive criticism so that put downs are exposed and, if the criticism is constructive, genuine learning and growth can take place.
In a very real way this assertiveness based skill can help you advance in your career and personal life beyond measure – so let’s begin!
x X x Jenny x X x