How to deal with criticism?
Criticized recently? We all face criticism in life.
The key to shape the future out of this criticism depends on the sequence of what we do immediately after the criticism is delivered. Do we resist, react and regret or do we reflect, respond and act.
In one sentence; wise people are master of their mind, not slave. Master your mind to always receive criticism then pause, respond and act.
The most difficult task after receiving the criticism is to pause and resist the urge of immediate reaction. Since it is the most difficult, practicing this is the most beneficial as well.
On the other hand, easiest is to react now and regret later. Well, since it is easiest, it has least benefits attached to it. I actually see no benefits at all. It can be harmful. It only creates more issues and regretful situations later.
Now we have a choice! Most benefits or no benefit with the possibility of being at more loses in future!
The choice is clear! Practice the art of reflect, respond and act and leave reaction completely out of our behavior. How do we do that?
As per Stephen R Covey, increase the time in-between stimuli and response. And I am a firm believer, practitioner and beneficiary of this statement.
I will rephrase the above question, “How to deal with criticism”, to say, “How do we practice to have appropriate amount of time in-between stimuli and response?”
Here are 7 definitive steps to do it.
1. Stay quiet and breathe
Take 25 big, really big breaths. Repeat if your heart is still beating at a speed you don’t like. Stay totally quiet during breathing. Keep your eyes close if you have to. Feel that with each breath, you are gaining control and visualizing the facts about the criticism you just received. The conscious breathing process will give you some extra oxygen and calm you down.
2. Revisit and reflect
Revisit the criticism you just received. A rough paper and a pencil are really useful in this situation. Ask questions. How did you receive it? Is it verbal or written? Why did you receive it? Underline the reason. Who criticized you? Is there any history? What did you do last time if there is any history? What have you done since last time if there is any history? When did you receive it? Is it somehow related to a particular time? Now dig deeper. Is the criticism a repetition by the same or even by a different person? Do you see a benefit for you in it? Will it help you to be better in any way, shape or form if you actually act on it? Do you acknowledge it in the deepest of your heart as right and constructive for you? Understand that nobody is perfect. Answer all the questions completely honestly!
Answer to all these questions is not important and that is good news! Answering all of these questions (and possibly more of the same nature that will arise of the specific criticism you received) is important though. It will very quickly help you to narrow down to the focus of the criticism.
Narrowing down to the focus of the criticism will further help you to generate the response. The right response!
(If you find that the criticism is constructive and useful to you)
After you have reflected back with a calm mind, create your response. Acknowledge the fact that person has taken some time out to criticize you, hence giving you the opportunity to improve. State (Verbal or written) what are the two major areas you can distinguish out of this criticism. Also state what will be your corresponding two actions for those two areas with the possible time frame to achieve them. You can make this response completely formal or informal depending upon the relation you have with the person you are responding to. (Boss needs formal, spouse or kids need informal.) Show your gratitude. Try sincerely to connect back to the person after your planned time for the action has passed to update that you actually took the identified actions out of this criticism. This is the real winning part of the response.
(If you find that the criticism is useless and can be destructive to you)
After you have reflected back with a calm mind and you established that the criticism has no value, whatsoever to you, just release it out of your mind. Close your eyes and think of a bird flying in the sky, just released out of your hands. Give this criticism freedom to fly. This does not deserve the strength of your mind and thoughts. There is no space in your memory for this criticism and it is worthless to keep it. Let it go. Remember that releasing the criticism is also a response. It is primarily bound to be known to you only.
When the criticism is constructive, it is in our best interest to quickly act upon the identified areas. As soon as you identify that there is an opportunity to improve, act on it. Just act. Don’t try to plan and over complicate it. Speed is a friend here. Taking action is the most desired outcome now, so don’t delay it to refine it on a paper! Just do and refine it in the real life. So the mantra here is to do it, do it and do it!
It is of utmost importance to know what the outcome is and what have we learned out of the specific criticism. Have we become stronger and we take criticism more effectively now without becoming too sentimental about it? Did we have right amount of time in between the stimuli and response? Was the time too less (react), or too more (relent)? What better will we do next time when facing the similar criticism? Did we make a friend or an enemy? Most importantly am I a better person after I improved upon my criticism?
After dealing with the immediate criticism in hand, make a list of possible weaknesses you have. Don’t be shy. You are not going to broadcast the list to anyone. It is only for your reference. Write all your weaknesses. Write down which one is causing you most harm? Now write down which one if left behind, will be most beneficial to you? The answer to both the questions will mostly be same. Write down Why, facts and figures for above two questions. Be confident and real.
7. Prioritize, Act and Improve
It is time to let go the habit or weakness you identified through the improvise section. No excuse, time-delay, procrastination, waiting for a good or bad time, nothing! Act now! Replace the weakness immediately with strength, a better habit. Just remember one thing! The time is NOW!
Don’t be oversensitive here. Tighten up your skin a bit. This is you trying to improve you so that you receive less and less criticism in future! Get to the point! This is all about you.
P.S. This article is about how to deal with the criticism, not about how to deal with the critics!