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.


Receiving Criticism in action: Evaluating Negative Assertion

How does imagining your agreement to part or all of what the person said make you feel? Does it leave you feeling awful about yourself or empowered because you have taken control of the conversation? Do you feel optimistic because you now have the opportunity to develop this aspect of your behavior for the better or do you feel overwhelmed? How do you imagine your agreeing with elements of the criticism would have impacted the conversation?


It’s worth bearing in mind that if agreeing with criticism leaves you feeling awful about yourself you may have an underlying self-esteem issue whereby you either feel any weakness translates into having less worth or where you cannot accept weaknesses because it is too threatening to your identity. If you feel awful when you recognize possessing a weakness please read my Tiny Buddha article on self-esteem titled ‘Learning to Love Yourself; 3 Steps to Instantly Boost Your Self-Esteem’.


Receiving Criticism in action: Role Play Using Negative Assertion

Take time to role play how you would have worded your agreement to the person who delivered the criticism, what would you have said and how would you have said it? Think carefully about what body language you would have used, the volume of your voice, your tone and inflection as well as how you would word things in a diplomatic way.


Receiving Criticism in action: Practicing Negative Assertion

Take your example of a time when someone criticized you and explore if there was anything you agreed with, even if it was just agreeing with the fact you could have spoken softer in the moment.


Although it’s often hard to recognize the part we have had to play in high conflict situations or in the areas we are criticized in, the truth is often not so black or white. If you are being criticized about a high conflict situation take the time to reflect as there is usually at least some way we have contributed to the conflict, whether it be in our tone of voice, the things we said or our actions.


If the criticism does not concern a high conflict situation it is still just as important to be reflective, trying to see things from the others perspective but taking care not to accept it without careful consideration (after all it may be malicious criticism). Try to be as honest as you can when thinking about whether the criticism you received in the example you chose last week was valid in any way and write down the elements of the criticism you agreed with, if any.


The criticism quandary; How to handle criticism and emerge bigger and better for it Part Three

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock


Last week we looked at asking questions to those that criticize us (negative inquiry). This week we explore how to agree with valid criticism, a technique called negative assertion.


The following steps are only relevant to situations where you believe the criticism not to be malicious put downs. Remember valid criticism can still be delivered in an accusatory way and that it is the content of what has been said – not the delivery – you need to focus on.


Be Honest with Yourself; Negative Assertion


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.


Receiving criticism in action: Evaluating role play

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.


Receiving Criticism in action: Role play with a friend how you would respond to put downs

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.


The criticism quandary; How to handle criticism and emerge bigger and better for it Part Two

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock


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:


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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