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6 Ways to Take the Sting Away When You Receive Criticism

Mistakes happen. Use these mantras to stay feeling OK whatever the criticism.

This post is in response to
10 Tips For Receiving Criticism with Grace
(c) monkeybusiness/fotosearch
Source: (c) monkeybusiness/fotosearch

You are in a car, skidding on a patch of ice. You are about to hit a lamppost. Reflexively, hopefully, you relax your body to absorb the shock. Similarly, reminding yourself to relax can prepare you if you are about to get hit by criticism, at work or in your love relationships.

Negative feedback makes most people stiffen. They expect to get hurt and are blocking the pain. Keeping your ears and your mind open when someone points out something you have done that they have reacted to with annoyance can feel challenging. Do you respond defensively, showing how and why the criticism is wrong?

Instead, listening for what might be useful in the negative feedback will benefit you far more than pushing the uncomfortable information away. Reminding yourself of the following six mantras can help.

Receiving Criticism Mantra #1: My actions are not me.

I can forget to take out the full bag of garbage from the kitchen, inviting ants into the house, and still be a good person.

My actions 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.

Receiving Criticism Mantra #2: Information is power.

Listening to understand why removing the garbage daily in the climate we've just moved to is so important to my spouse will strengthened my ability to change my leaving-the-garbage-in-the-kitchen habit.

Listening when some reacts negatively strengthens motivation and therefore ability to make changes.

Receiving Criticism Mantra #3: Mistakes are for learning.

Mistakes do not make me a bad person. They make me a better person. They help me become ever-more competent 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 house in the mountains, garbage attracts bears as well as ants.

Receiving Criticism Mantra #4: No person is perfect.

People are not angels, flying about with wings and cherubic faces. People have their feet on the ground, sometimes treading mistakenly. If you believe that you are supposed to be perfect, you will feel shame when you make mistakes. Shame interferes with relaxing to listen to criticism.

Instead of shame, you can feel gratitude for feedback about mistakes if you understand that everyone makes mistakes and mistakes are for learning.

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

Receiving Criticism Mantra #5: Different people 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.

Receiving Criticism Mantra #6: Consider the source.

Some people give criticism in order to put themselves up by putting others down. If their goal is assertion of power more than helpful feedback, take that motivation into consideration before assuming that their feedback is going to be helpful.

Some people are quick to anger. Once they begin to feel heated, they throw labels and complaints at whomever is close by. In these cases, translate the projectile as a projection. Projection means that what they accuse you of really is how they are, as if they are a movie projector projecting the film that is in them onto you.

In sum, when you are about to be hit by criticism

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


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

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