Deflecting Criticism and Enhancing Relationships by Judy Wright
“You have such a pretty face; it’s too bad you are overweight.” “How could you be so dumb?” “You did that wrong again.” “What is the matter with you? Aren’t you listening” “You are just like your dad and he was a loser too.”
If just reading those negative statements caused a knot to form in your stomach or your shoulders to droop, imagine hearing that barrage day after day? Many parents, bosses and family members feel that their way is the only way. In an attempt to make themselves right, they endeavor to make others wrong.
The world is full of people who attempt to control others with judgments, comparisons and guilt. They hold a vision of perfection that is unattainable for mere mortals. It is as if they are the sole authority on what is right and worthy of their acceptance and approval. Since reaching perfection is out of the question, they are forever disappointed, frustrated and looking for someone or something to blame.
The basis for criticism may be a desire to want the best for the recipient but the method of communication has a basis of disrespect. How a comment is phrased is often a much larger reflection on the speaker than on the receiver. It may have much more to do with their own self image than on yours. A negative, demanding person takes the energy and self confidence away from those he had hoped to motivate.
Criticism is the opposite of encouragement, even if the speaker tells you it is constructive or for your own good. If an interaction with another person leaves you feeling depleted, defeated or discouraged, you can be sure it was filled with criticism.
Here are some methods I have found to be effective in deflecting criticism, while enhancing relationships:
1. Acknowledge the feedback. “Thank you for sharing your opinion. I will give it some thought.” If there is something that would improve performance to your standards, then consider it. If not, after evaluation, simply discard the information.
2. Agree with their right to disagree with what you are doing. Use the sales technique of “feel, felt, found” to get on the same side. “I can see why you might feel that way. Sometimes I have felt (frustrated, angry, disappointed etc.) myself, but I found that when I step back from the situation, there is usually a solution that provides a way for both sides to win.”
3. Avoid becoming defensive. Don’t argue, simply smile and continue as you were doing. Let the critical words or expressions slide right off your back and on to the floor.
4. Ask for more information and clarification. “I want to be sure I understand what you are saying. I respect your advice and value you as a person. Did you mean to say…………”
5. Assert yourself. “Why would you want to deliberately hurt me? I want to remain friends, but I won’t allow you to treat me that way.”
6. Accept the fact that there may very well be a problem, but don’t take it personally. Not everything is about you. The speaker may just be frustrated and taking it out on who ever is present. Don’t absorb it as an attack on your worthiness.
Feedback is essential to growth and the development of new ideas. The dialog and communication that comes from sharing opinions and suggestions with respect is invaluable.
If you hear something negative from one person it is an opinion, from two or more consider it suggestions but if three different people give you the same message, you might want to pay attention. Be grateful for the feedback and take another look at your behavior. You may be ready to make positive changes in your life.
Judy H. Wright is an author, educator and encourager who is fortunate enough to live in beautiful Montana. To download free articles and sign up for the newsletter The Artichoke—finding the heart of the story in the journey of life please go to http://www.ArtichokePress.com
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