7 ways to han­dle crit­i­cism

How to re­spond more pos­i­tively to neg­a­tive feedback. By An­gela Bar­rett.

Good Health (Australia) - - Contents -

It can re­ally hurt when some­one finds fault with you or your per­for­mance. Whether it’s a friend let­ting you know your new hair colour doesn’t suit you or your su­per­vi­sor send­ing your project back for re­work­ing, it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that crit­i­cism is not nec­es­sar­ily an at­tack on you.

“Con­struc­tive crit­i­cism can be a path­way to growth and im­prove­ment,” says Syd­ney psy­chol­o­gist El­iz­a­beth Neal.

Some of us are su­per-sen­si­tive to crit­i­cism and can quickly dis­solve into tears, anger or feel­ings of in­ad­e­quacy. And while these re­ac­tions are fairly com­mon, none of them are very pro­duc­tive. So how can we learn to han­dle crit­i­cism in a pos­i­tive way? Use a sim­ple re­sponse to ac­knowl­edge you have heard their opin­ion. Try, ‘Thank you for the feedback. I’ll take that on board,’ or ‘Okay, I’ll con­sider that.’

If you have an emo­tional, heart-thump­ing re­ac­tion to what’s been said, your brain has gone into ‘fight or flight’ mode. Don’t re­spond while you’re in this primed state.

“Take a few min­utes out, feel your feet on the ground, and breathe slowly and deeply un­til you feel more calm,” says well­ness coach Tr­ish Everett. “When you breathe in a re­laxed way, your heart rate and stress re­sponse will come down so you can re-en­gage your ra­tio­nal brain be­fore you re­spond.”

Whether the crit­i­cism is con­struc­tive or just rude, don’t take it as a per­sonal af­front. “It’s par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant in a pro­fes­sional set­ting to be able to re­ceive crit­i­cism or feedback about your work with­out tak­ing it per­son­ally,” says Neal.

Cre­ate some dis­tance be­tween you and the is­sue by look­ing at the crit­i­cism from an ob­jec­tive stand­point. Look at the con­text and who’s de­liv­er­ing the crit­i­cism. Is it com­ing from a se­nior per­son at work? If so, is it sim­ply le­git­i­mate feedback about your per­for­mance? Is it pre­dictable neg­a­tiv­ity from a nit-picker? If this is the case, it’s prob­a­bly less about you not be­ing good enough and more about them feel­ing in­ad­e­quate, jeal­ous or en­vi­ous and deal­ing with this by try­ing to bring you down. Crit­i­cal com­ments can ac­ti­vate a deeply-held neg­a­tive be­lief we have about our­selves, like ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I’m not wanted’. By be­com­ing fa­mil­iar with the in­ner story you have about your­self, you’ll know that when you’re trig­gered by a crit­i­cal com­ment, you might be over­re­act­ing be­cause it’s ac­ti­vated your painful core be­lief. “Your re­ac­tion to crit­i­cism de­pends on how sen­si­tive that par­tic­u­lar is­sue is for you,” says Ser­ena Bai­ley, a life coach spe­cial­is­ing in bound­ary set­ting. Put aside your re­ac­tion to look at what you can learn from this sit­u­a­tion. “Even if it’s pushed your but­tons, be brave and ask your­self if there’s any­thing in what they’re say­ing that you can take on board,” sug­gests mind­set coach Alyce Pil­grim.

“Then, look at your re­ac­tion to see what this sit­u­a­tion might be push­ing you to learn. Ask your­self, ‘If this sit­u­a­tion is hap­pen­ing to serve as an op­por­tu­nity for my learn­ing and growth, what would that learn­ing be?’ Per­haps it’s telling you that you need to de­velop re­silience or calm­ness in the face of oth­ers’ drama, or to learn to stand up for your­self or take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the be­hav­iours you have that in­vite crit­i­cism from oth­ers.” If you’re re­ally sen­si­tive and any sort of crit­i­cism – con­struc­tive or not – pushes your but­tons, re­nam­ing it ‘feedback’ can help. This process is known in coun­selling as re­fram­ing and puts a dif­fer­ent slant on some­thing, en­abling you to see it in a more pos­i­tive light.

“The word crit­i­cism can have neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions, so by view­ing it as feedback you change your per­cep­tion of it im­me­di­ately,” says Bai­ley. “This al­lows you take a step back from it emo­tion­ally which gives you more abil­ity to choose how you re­spond.” Have a con­ver­sa­tion with the per­son who has crit­i­cised you. “It’s im­por­tant to ad­dress it with cu­rios­ity, not ac­cu­sa­tion,” says Bai­ley. “Try to get to the bot­tom of their crit­i­cism by hav­ing an adult con­ver­sa­tion with them about it – one that’s re­spect­ful to you both,” she says.

“Fo­cus on what’s go­ing on for you rather than lay­ing blame, and state what you need. Say, ‘I’m feel­ing con­fused about what the is­sue might be here and would love it if we could talk more about it so I can bet­ter un­der­stand where you’re com­ing from.’” If you’re reg­u­larly brought down by crit­i­cism, con­sider work­ing on your self-es­teem and bound­aries with the help of a coun­sel­lor or psy­chol­o­gist.

In the mean­time, con­sider re­duc­ing the amount of con­tact you have with some­one who reg­u­larly crit­i­cises you so you have more con­trol over the visit or in­ter­ac­tion.

“If it’s some­one you can’t avoid, try be­ing more mat­ter-of-fact with them, or with­draw your need for their friend­ship or ap­proval,” sug­gests Neal.

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