(c) monkeybusiness www.fotosearch.com
Source: (c) monkeybusiness www.fotosearch.com

Prepare yourself if criticism is heading your way, at work or in your love relationships.

If you were in a car and about to hit a lamppost, you hopefully would relax your body to absorb the shock. Similarly, relaxing yourself when you are about to get hit by criticism can enable you to keep listening to learn.

Negative feedback makes most people uncomfortable.  Listening when someone points out a mistake you’ve made or something that you have done that they reacted to with annoyance poses one of the hardest listening challenges. You are likely to feel tempted to respond defensively, showing how and why the criticism is wrong.

Still, listening for what might be useful when you are receiving negative feedback is likely to benefit you far more than pushing uncomfortable information away.  Fortunately, reciting the following mantras can help.

Mantra #1:  My actions are not me.

They are a part, not the whole of me, so I can make mistakes and still be loved and respected. People can be frustrated with a specific behavior I have done and still love me. I can forget to take out the garbage, inviting ants into the house, and still be a good person.

Mantra #2: Information is power.

If I listen to understand what behaviors of mine that someone is reacting to negatively, I gain the power to make changes.

If I listen to understand why removing the garbage daily in the climate we've just moved to is so important, I will feel strengthened in changing my habit from removing garbage just once a week to daily trips to the dump.

Mantra #3:  Mistakes are for learning.

Mistakes do not make me a bad person.  They make me a normal person, and a better person to the extent that I listen to learn when others disagree with me or criticize something I have said or done.

Good thing I learned from attracting those little ants.  Now I know that in our new environment, a lovely house in the mountains, garbage attracts bears as well as ants unless our garbage cans' lids are screwed on tight.

Mantra #4: No person is perfect.  

There it is: total proof.  You are not perfect.  Phew.  You are normal.

People are not angels, flying about with wings and cherubic faces. People have their feet on the ground, sometimes tread mistakenly. Instead of shame, I can feel gratitude for what I learn from my mistakes.

No one is born knowing about how ways of handling garbage up in a mountain cabin differ from what you can do in the city.  We are all imperfect in what we know.  We just need to be open to learning.  Mistakes are for learning.

Mantra #5: Different folks see different data.

When others’ views differ from mine, my job is to find what’s right in both of our views. 

I was right that bears are cute and thrilling to spot in person.  My neighbors are right that bears can kill you. Hmmm... I think I will add that information to my total perspective.

The bottom line: Treasure your mistakes.  Mistakes are for learning.  Treasure criticism.  Criticism offers you information, and information is power.

Mantra #6: Acknowledge your mistake so others don't need to criticize you.

That's key.  If you can see for yourself mistakes you've made, you have the option of beating your potential critics to the punch.  And when the punch is self-inflicted, you can choose whether to berate yourself or just to implement the mantras above.  Mistakes are for learning.  If you admit the error and then offer what you've learned--"Next time in that kind of situation I can see that I'd like to ...."--then you can turn the curse to a blessing.   You've learned.  Others admire your handling of the situation.  And next time will be better.

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The post above was adapted from Dr. Heitler's newest book, Prescriptions Without Pills: For Relief from Depression, Anger, Anxiety and More

To receive weekly emails with Dr. Heitler's blogposts, click here.

(c) Susan Heitler, PhD
Source: (c) Susan Heitler, PhD

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