five tips for handling constructive criticism

I can tell you — for a fact — that there is probably nobody who struggles with criticism more than I do.  In fact, if you were to ask any of my former employers, they would all probably say that “being defensive” was the one quality about me they struggled with the most.

Nobody likes criticism.

I used to have a serious problem with acting like a victim.

I always felt like I was being “attacked” for something.  From the biggest to the smallest of things, I did not like to take ownership for my part — or worse — be told how I should have handled things.

I used to become incredibly defensive and angry at anybody who would give me the slightest bit of constructive feedback because I always felt it was unnecessary.

I’ve grown to learn that criticism is a necessity.

Even though we each will receive a fair bit of criticism in our lives, there is no need to feel threatened, defensive, or ashamed of it. It’s all part of breaking away from our comfort zone. In fact, one of the most annoying criticisms I’ve received continuously has been the question, “Why do you do it that way?”

I’m sure you have heard this issue/observation many times also.

For years, this would be my reaction when asked that dreaded question.

“Why did you do it that way?”

Five steps for effective handling constructive criticism

  • Avoid being defensive whenever possible.  I’ve learned to choose not to be defensive when I receive criticism works best for me.  I used to get super defensive whenever I felt criticized.  And the only thing I ever accomplished by becoming defensive was to prove I was incapable of respecting other people’s observations.  We cannot grow from staying inside a bubble.  So, if somebody bursts yours, try and keep calm and hear them out.
  • Avoid being quick to react.  My father used to tell me all the time that I’m a “highly reactive” individual.  As soon as I heard something I didn’t agree with, I would react and typically regret doing so.  Being reactive is similar to being defensive, but the difference is that when we respond quickly, we don’t give ourselves time to process the situation correctly.  Now, I try to step back from the situation and breathe and think about how I’m going to process it.  I may choose to confront or concede, but I will have given myself the opportunity to have a choice.
  • Assume the responsibility when it’s your fault.  When I’m the root of the problem, I owe it to myself, and everybody involved to accept responsibility for it.  Nobody likes the blame game (especially when you’re the one to blame), but it’s a necessary evil sometimes.  Assuming the responsibility for your mistake shows that you are big enough to accept and learn from a situation.
  • Take it as an opportunity to gain some insight.  In every occasion, there is something positive to come out of it and to be at the forefront of criticism is a chance to gain some valuable insight.  For example, after you receive a criticism is a perfect time to ask questions about how you can better handle the situation in the future.
  • Stop taking criticisms as a personal attack.  When objections occur, we often internalize them as an attack on who we are not what we’ve done. You will likely never be able to please everyone.   Just because someone questions your work doesn’t mean they are criticizing who you are.  We all can produce work that disappoints, but that doesn’t mean that we are disappointing.

Learning how to handle criticism constructively is something we all should master.  We can choose to see critiques as an opportunity to learn something new about ourselves.  As with everything in life, it’s a decision.

Here’s to making the best decisions possible!

How do you handle criticism?

 

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Why I couldn't accept compliments

Happy Thursday, everybody. Wow, it’s January 21st already, and we’re three weeks into 2016. Crazy! How are you doing with any resolutions or changes you are looking to make for yourself this year?

One of the changes I want to make this year is to stop suffering from the “compliment complex.” I’m linking up with Amanda at Running with Spoons for Thinking Out Loud today to talk about something I think most of us are suffering from (especially women) — how to start accepting compliments.

 

I cringe whenever I even think about how difficult it is for most of us to accept praise. We say things like, “oh this old thing” or “shut up, I haven’t lost weight” or “you’re crazy, I’m not amazing” to the slightest amount of praise. There are only two words we ever really need to say when somebody gives us a compliment, and yet, we rarely ever say them: Thank you.

I am still in shock whenever someone says something like that they love my hair, or they think I have lovely cheekbones. I am always looking to see if the person saying it to me is talking to me or someone standing behind me. Once I (hopefully) discern that they are in fact addressing me, my first reaction is to say, “my hair is terrible, it’s thin, and a disaster” or “my face is broad.” Instead of just accepting that person’s praise I not only refute it but argue that they are ‘seeing things’ that aren’t so. Or, I take it as far as putting something else on myself down so that I can justify accepting praise.

“Just take the compliment” — is what my inner voice wants to hear when I bounce praise off myself, but even still, I can’t seem just to shut up and) take the compliment.

Why is it so difficult to accept complimentary statements others make about us? Why does it make us feel so uncomfortable?

Years ago, while I was living in New York, I used to have this one particular friend. She was well-educated, attractive, and friendly. In fact, we ultimately became friends because she once complimented my shoes at a bar. This friend was so different from most of the women I had been surrounded by in my twenties. For starters because of how accomplished she was, but mostly because she would always say, “thank you” when complimented. I remember thinking to myself, “this might be the first friend I’ve ever had who wouldn’t sandwich compliments with self-deprecation rebuttals. ”

I have to admit — despite the fact I liked her, I had a hard time understanding how easy it was for her to accept such praise without tearing something else about herself down.

Photo credit: Buzzfeed

I know that sounds ridiculous, but I mean, I had gotten used to hearing everyone else doing everything they could to talk other people out of any positive decisions they made about them, and this girl was just like, “I know.”

How dare she just accept it when somebody tells her she’s beautiful or smart?

But what made me the most uncomfortable about her was how she used to compliment others (including yours truly). For a while, I had convinced myself that she was only doing it so I would give her compliments back. Instead of finding my friend confident and kind, I was suspicious of her motives and decided she was arrogant.

Why I Couldn’t Accept Compliments

Looking back now, I can honestly say that the reason my friend’s confidence made me feel uncomfortable was that I was envious of her.

What took me years to understand was that I wasn’t envious of her in the sense that I wish I looked like her or had her job or anything like that. I was envious of her because she could find a place inside of herself that said, “I’m going to be gracious and accept kind words about myself from others.” Let’s face it; we are living in a society where many people tear one another down as a means to feel better about themselves. How dare any of us believe in ourselves or say kind things about others.  The truth was, I spent most of my life tearing myself down because I didn’t feel like there was anything praise-worthy about me.

All my life, I’ve heard the phrase, “self-praise is no praise.” But if you ask me now, self-praise is the only way we can accept any praise at all. It’s not arrogant to think highly of yourself or your capabilities; it seems quite foolish not to. Speaking from my experience, I know I have struggled with accepting compliments due to my low self-esteem. However, for others, it has less to do with their self-esteem and more to do with them having been conditioned to be humble when it comes to accepting praise. After all, confident people can be labeled as arrogant, and that is too bad in many cases.

The reality is this: When we receive complimentary statements, it is because someone is trying to connect or identify with us. When somebody we know or even a complete stranger says something kind about us whether it’s our nail polish color or an idea we’ve had, we have a responsibility to ourselves and greater humanity to take a moment to allow our inner voices to change the conversation between our ears. I believe, if more of us can step up and own the praise we receive, the more of us there will be to give it genuinely in exchange. Confidence should not be considered a stigma.

[Tweet “Confidence should not be considered a stigma. Why I Couldn’t Accept Compliments #SelfEsteem #SelfHelp via @BeetsPerMinute”]

 

So, the next time you receive a compliment just smile and say “thank you” and pay it forward.

Do you have trouble accepting compliments?

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