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The Criticism Quandary; How To Handle Criticism And Emerge Bigger And Better For It – Part Three

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


After you have managed to resist becoming defensive and you have taken the time to ask relevant questions it is key to immediately assess what has been said and honestly ask yourself if it holds any truth. In order to be this honest with yourself you have to be willing to be vulnerable as it takes real courage to examine yourself in this way.


Remember we all have weaknesses and things we need to work on no matter who we are, this fact doesn’t diminish our worth or value in any way whatsoever.


Once you have honestly assessed whether what the person has said holds any truth you can regain your power by vocalizing what elements of the criticism you agree with. This shows that you are genuinely listening to what is being said, that you are not overly defensive and that you are open to the possibility that you could have handled things better.


Of course I am not suggesting that you vocalize agreement with criticism you genuinely don’t accept as valid but rather that you ask yourself how, if at all, you could have handled things differently and to the benefit of all involved and then say so to the person who is criticizing you. If the person who is criticizing you is aggressive or you tend to be aggressive / defensive this will be difficult, but by agreeing to certain elements of the criticism you are actually taking back control of the conversation – just remember to have a calm and measured tone of voice.


When agreeing however be sure to only accept what you could have improved upon – rather than over-compensating and accepting responsibility for everything – unless you genuinely believe that you are responsible for the entire situation. Those that are passive may find this more difficult to do than those who are assertive. If you think you tend to be passive also take time to ask yourself what others could have done to improve the situation, thereby creating a more balanced perspective and then say only what you could have done differently. Take care not to mention what others could have done differently as this will only make you appear as if you are trying to transfer blame.


In agreeing to elements of the criticism you immediately appear balanced, rational, receptive to what is being communicated and open to changing where necessary.


Have you ever agreed with criticism? Did it make you feel more in control of the situation when you honestly assessed your behavior and used negative assertion? If you haven’t agreed with criticism in the past will you be open to possibly agreeing with elements of criticism in future? 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 how to apologize for the part you had to play, how to ask for feedback and even say thank you for offering criticism, empowering you to take charge of the conversation and gain the respect of your peers.


Further Resources:

‘The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt’ by Deb Bright, PhD



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