There's no doubt about it. Constructive criticism, while possibly useful, can hurt. Even though the intention might be to help us, certain critiques can send us crashing!
Especially when a constructive criticism is unexpected and cuts to your core, you might want to retreat, and you might crave time for self-exploration. While possibly powerful, this approach might require more time than you have in the moment.
In addition, while increasing your self-care can certainly help you mend, you might not have the luxury of getting a massage, working out, or attending a therapy session right then and there.
In these cases, you might opt to consider a mind-shifting response to tough-to-swallow constructive criticism.
Here's a quick recipe to help you rebound from criticism in 5 minutes.* Use it for "one of those days" when you get constructively criticized and want to get back on track fast.
Minute 1. If appropriate, thank the person who gave you the criticism directly or in your imagination. What? Say thank you? Naturally, the part of you that is hurt might want to say some other choice words instead. But, when you enlist your thankful side, it will not only disarm the critic, but it will also remind YOU that there's something in it for you! Whenever you are reacting emotionally, your emotions actually signal that a powerful lesson's awaiting! Can this trial offer an opportunity for growth, or even gain?
Minute 2. Take some slow deep breaths and acknowledge what you're feeling. Realize that sometimes what is bothering you might relate to believing you're being separated/singled out, or that you're misunderstood.
Biologically, we're partially wired for survival through social conformity. As such, criticism represents a verbal method to increase in-group behavior. Your anxiety about feeling separated may actually contain some biological hard-wiring.
Other times, you might also have a "should" operating related to being misunderstood. According to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), your absolute shoulds can activate some painful negative emotion. Using REBT principles can help you to quickly shift yourself. For example:
Minute 3. Acknowledge yourself for simply taking an action that could be criticized. This was a risk, but you did it anyway! Not everyone will approve of everything you do. So, YOU can approve of you for the fact that you took a step.
Minute 4. What was the purpose of the action that was criticized? This was the real reason you stepped forward and took an action in the first place! Reconnect with the "why" behind your action, and realize that one person's criticism is unlikely to be as powerful as your overall purpose to continue doing the work you're doing.
Minute 5. Analyze it like a scientist and then redirect yourself. If you find some merit in the criticism, use it to course correct and get even better at what you do. If the criticism feels unfounded, consider the source and immediately redirect your focus to doing something productive.
Please feel free to share your 5 minute recipe below, or to share the results of using this recipe to help you as you move from pain to growth.
*Certainly if the criticism is recurrent, non-constructive, and/or abusive, this recipe doesn't apply! In such cases, it's advisable to opt for greater self-protection and more substantial healing, which might include psychotherapy.
Dr. Pam Garcy is a psychologist and author in Dallas, Texas.