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February 13, 2020
If simply reading this title is making the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, you’re not alone. Just the thought of somebody pointing out a flaw in your performance or attitude can send even the toughest among us into a tailspin.
When I was young, my Mom and friends would often say to me, “Why can’t you take any criticism?” Or my personal favorite, “You don’t listen to anyone!”
I remember thinking to myself, “Well yeah...‘cause I know more than you!”
LOL! Thank God those days are behind me, and a distant memory of my younger self.
Of course, I know now that I didn’t have all the answers back then. After a year or two in college, I’d heard enough people comment on my inability to work with constructive criticism that it really prompted me to have a good hard look at myself.
I knew I didn’t want to get stuck at that low level of my personal growth. I wanted to pride myself on being approachable, the kind of person you could speak your mind to openly.
So, with little guidance or literature available on the topic of handling criticism, I took it upon myself to start listening more, and commenting back a lot less. And it worked! However, I learned over time that there’s a bit more to it than just that. One of the most helpful first steps was an attitude adjustment: Changing my thinking about not only the comments being made, but the person making them. I realized it was important to be conscious of the fact that the person criticizing me loved me, or at least liked me a lot and wanted to see me do well. As a result, I now CRAVE criticism. I seek it out because I know I’m always better for having heard it, and I know how to process it productively.
Looking back over my years of growth got me thinking about whether all of us women have the ability to hear, and actually RECEIVE the opinions of others about ourselves.
We’re successful, smart, professional women. We’re at the top of our game in our careers, we have fulfilling relationships in all aspects of our lives, and we’re proud of it. Why is it that we can be so easily toppled at the first sign of criticism?
So before you freak out, blurt out something you might regret later on, or lash out at the next person critiquing you- let’s deconstruct the process and talk about how you can turn this potentially awkward situation into (believe it or not!) a positive experience. You can even flip the script and come out of the whole ordeal looking like a champ with your head held high, having earned some new pointers for personal development and the added bonus of the newfound respect from your critic for how diplomatically you handled it!
As difficult as it can be to hear, there can be a lot of benefits in receiving constructive criticism. We have the option to be offended and get defensive, or instead choose to see it as a blessing in disguise, alerting us to areas we can improve on that we’ve never considered before.
No matter whether that person coming to you with feedback is important in your personal or professional life, it’s an incredibly useful life skill to handle the encounter without losing your cool. With some careful words and humility on your part, you can even turn it around into an opportunity to build rapport and trust, become a better employee, colleague, partner, friend or family member, and also improve your image and performance in all the relationships in your life.
So, next time you hear the conversation turning in that direction… The one that starts your heart pounding and your mind racing... Take a deep breath, embrace your power, and let’s level up.
Ok, you’ve been pulled you aside for a difficult conversation. Before you get all fired up inside- take a moment to compose yourself.
This can be tricky, as it’s our natural reaction to go into protection mode in this situation. I know when I feel like I’m being attacked, like my actions or choices are being second-guessed, or that my character is being judged, I instinctively want to defend myself and prove the other person wrong. And unfortunately, I might be missing big opportunities if I revert to defensiveness. Some tips to help us all...
This trick really helps you to get out of your head when your thoughts and feelings are spiraling out of control.
Here’s where the constructive part of the criticism comes in, and the growth opportunities become clear for you with info you can actually do something with. Now that you’ve got the initial shock out of the way, get down to business of working out the areas where you can improve so you never need a repeat of this conversation.
This might be a bitter pill to swallow if you didn’t feel like they handled the interaction as well as they should, or if they were dishing out some particularly horrific feedback that stung a bit.
Well, would you look at that? You survived! Take a moment to be gentle and kind to yourself. You may have heard some things that were difficult things to hear, and that’s ok. So far in your life, you’ve survived precisely 100% of the tough things you’ve been through. You’ve got this too. Here’s the good news:
You’ve got this.
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