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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How to Deal with Criticism and Keep Your Ego Intact

"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."Winston Churchill

Raise Your Hand if You Like to be Criticized

When you hear someone say, "I hope you don't mind, but I have some criticism of your work I'd like to give you", does it give you the warm fuzzies or the icy chills?

Like most people you probably think of criticism as a negative ~ something to be feared. But did you know the original Greek word 'Kritikos' meant a neutral appraisal?

Criticism: A Positive Tool

Criticism can and should be thought of as a positive tool to enhance your personal effectiveness and improve your relationships. No kidding.

By simply changing your view of criticism from a negative to positive evaluation, you improve your  coach-ability, provide more meaningful and useful feedback to others, and improve your relationships. It all starts with creating positive intentions for receiving and giving feedback.

In his book, 'Nobody's Perfect", author, Henry Weisenger, defines criticism as 'to communicate information to others in a way that enables them to use it to their advantage and benefit.'

Used properly, with a positive intent, criticism is used to communicate, influence, and motivate. Used improperly, with a negative intent, criticism is used to belittle, demoralize and shut up adversaries.

How to Use Criticism to Communicate, Influence and Motivate

Get Clear on Your Intentions

Abraham Lincoln said, "He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help. " When you start with the proper intentions ~ to help others use information to their advantage and benefit ~ you'll speak from the heart, and you're more likely to be heard. When people know you care about them, they're more open to listening to, and being influenced by you.

Decide to Live in a Friendly , Not Hostile, World

When you're on the receiving end, be intent to make a good use of all feedback. Make a choice to be open ~ Ask for feedback ~ welcome feedback  ~ and above all, always thank others for feedback. Be coach-able ~ and don't give others anything to push against.

But what if you're on the receiving end of criticism, and the criticizer's intentions are not so good? You can't do anything about the other's negative intent, but you can be the master of your own soul, and influence your personal development, by deciding to accept all feedback as good. This doesn't mean you must take in everything said. It means you stay open to hearing, without resistance. You choose to suspend judgment so you can decide later what to keep and what to let go.

Your view of the world around you---as a friendly or hostile world-- will determine how you respond to everything else. Make a conscious decision to see the world as a friendly place, one that supports your health, happiness and well-being. Choose to step around the intentions of those who mean to do you harm. Stay focused on creating your own, positive, friendly world.

Get the Facts
If your intentions are to keep your relationships intact, always check out your assumptions with  other people. Start feedback conversations with a soft opening like, 'Do you have a moment to talk?', then gently move into the heart of the issue, engaging in open, honest, direct communication. Ask clarifying questions and listen intently. Seek to hear and understand the other person's intent.

We all need two things to engage in open, honest, direct communication ~ courage and compassion. Some of us have plenty of compassion and we need more courage (we're too nice), while others have plenty of courage and need to develop more compassion (you're too blunt). A balance of compassion and courage is needed by all of us.

No one does conflict perfectly. And no one communicates perfectly. We're all just practicing every time we engage with other people.

Where Can You Apply in Your Own Life?

Has someone criticized you recently? How can you turn that information into beneficial feedback that helps you develop?

Where do you need to use your courage and compassion to engage others in open, honest, direct communication that could benefit both you and them?
"Difficulties mastered are opportunities won."
Winston Churchill


Jean | Delightful Repast said...

This is a really powerful post! I especially appreciate #2 because it's just that attitude that has saved me from having a whole day ruined by someone else's negative intentions. I *try* to always take the high road. There's always something to be learned from any encounter.

LightartedSue said...

There's nothing like being in charge of your own life and attitude.