In a few weeks, many of us will be tested as we reunite with loved ones who sometimes don’t make the most supportive comments about our actions. And when you step up in your business and life, criticism happens no matter what you do. So the bottom line is you have to learn how to handle it. Below, a few tips on how to bounce back.
Check Your Feelings at the Door
According to Kare Anderson—a “gut instincts expert” from Sausalito, Calif. —in the first moments of a critical attack, we respond like animals: our heart beat races, skin temperature drops and we even lose peripheral vision. Our first instincts are to feel the criticism, and then either withdraw or retaliate. Neither of these responses is healthy.
What is helpful is to shift your focus away from your feelings and towards the actual content of the critique. I love Anderson’s visual for this: Imagine that you are a part of a triangle, with you at one point, your “attacker” the second, and the topic of criticism at the pinnacle. Picture you both staring up at the criticism, and work through it from that viewpoint.
Acknowledge the Other Person
Think about what you do when someone criticizes you. You think, “No I don’t! I do A, B, and C, and all of these things right, and you are the one who does, X, Y, Z wrong!” We get self-righteous, more rigid and might stop listening to the other party.
Whether or not the other party is justified in their comments, start by simply acknowledging that you heard the other person—with a pause, a nod, or verbally (if you can do so in a non-hostile way, such as “I hear you.”). These responses keep the tone of the conversation neutral, while buying you some time to collect more information.
Disarm Your “Attacker”
At this point, your goal is to get more information while managing any feelings being stirred in both you and the other person. Encourage the other person to clarify their concerns by highlighting the qualities you respect in the other person. Anderson suggests using disarming statements, like “you are so dedicated” or “knowledgeable” to make the other person more receptive to your response.
Make a Resolution
At this point, it’s safe to either agree with the criticism or agree to disagree. If you believe the comments are accurate, then be honest and say so. If you owe the person an apology, give it up! As hard as it is to admit, sometimes criticism directed towards us is deserved. The sooner you can take ownership of it, the more likely things will improve from there.
But, what if you don’t agree with the comments? Start by asking the other person if you can state your view by saying something like, “Can I tell you my perspective?” Then, proceed to calmly, even rationally support your own view.
I love Anderson’s model because it puts a highly charged situation into slow motion. By disarming your own feelings, and the feelings of the other person, you really do create a more productive environment for discussing the topic at hand. Remember, not all criticism is designed to bring you down. Sometimes life’s biggest gifts come in unexpected packages.