Sunday, February 25, 2018

Learning to Deal with Criticism

This past fall I was asked to write something about how to deal with criticism. It's something we must all confront at one time or another if we live and interact in the real world. Sometimes it hurts because we ourselves are overly sensitive. Sometimes it hurts because it hits the mark. And sometimes, its unjust and uncalled for.

My brother Ron recently published an article dealing with this issue. I asked permission to share it here.

Dr. Ronald Newman

Seeking Balance When Coping With Criticism

You will be criticized. How do you handle that feedback from others when it is critical of you in some way? Politicians have to develop a thick skin in order to survive public scrutiny, as do leaders of all types, whether in the church or community. How we handle criticism will have a profound impact on our future, so here are a few tips for making it a more positive experience.

1) Begin with a secure sense of yourself. This requires self-acceptance which comes from knowing who you are, and your values, desires, and goals. From this foundation, criticism can be examined more objectively. In this way, you can remain positive and confident through the process of self-examination.

2) Listen intently. The critics in your life are saying something. What is it? Tune into the feelings and content of their message. What are they afraid of, or angry about? Listen as objectively and without defensiveness as possible. You are seeking to truly hear what is being said.

3) Accept that you are not perfect. We all have flaws, including habits we ourselves do not like. At least be open with yourself about these areas for improvement.

4) Discern constructive versus destructive criticism. If the intention of the criticizer is simply to tear you down, you may find it difficult to find the beneficial elements of the feedback. When negative comments simply fuel your "inner critic," take a step back and evaluate their words more carefully, in a non-judgmental manner.

5) See criticism as an opportunity for growth. It can actually keep you balanced, as others may be giving you objective feedback on how to improve in some area of your life. Feedback can produce positive change. Allow the objective truth in the criticism to feed the voice of your inner coach.

6) Seek truth objectively. Engage the rational part of your mind, which can be difficult when our emotions are crying "foul" and we feel hurt by the external critic.

7) Respond with understanding. Communicate that you hear and see the truths contained in the criticism. Sometimes this means only agreeing in part or in principle, or saying you will reflect on their feedback if you think the criticism is unfounded or only partially true.

8) Accept responsibility. If the feedback is true and accurate, accept responsibility for it. No excuses. It is not about image. It is about your heart and personal growth. You can even thank the person for the feedback, if it is clear their desire was to benefit you.

9) Apologize when appropriate. This can help repair a relationship, especially if an unintended hurt has occurred. While apology communicates the desire to improve a relationship, it should be done thoughtfully, in a manner that tunes in to the feelings and perceived offense to your critic.

10) Learn assertiveness. The temptation to respond in angry ways, whether by being aggressive or passive aggressive (such as by criticizing people behind their backs through gossip), can be an opportunity to exercise self-control by learning new assertive habits. You can correct misconceptions directly or set stronger boundaries on inappropriate criticism. You can also work on the forgiveness process. In this way, you take the higher road and can be more at peace, even when reflecting or responding to criticism.

Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a practicing psychologist at the Lakeview Professional Center on Route 30 in South Jersey. He can be contacted directly at write2balance [AT] gmail dot com.

No comments: