MavK

Art and Creativity Coaching Articles

How to take the sting out of criticism!

How to cope with criticism

…some people drag their cojones behind them in a cart, while others feel like they’re constantly in sub-zero temperatures.

There are some people who laugh in the face of criticism! They appear unscathed and undeterred from marching onwards, no deviation or sway of insecurity. And then there are those who buckle under even a slightly negative tone, swearing that they knew they had no talent and shouldn’t have even attempted it … whatever “it” may be … starting a business, writing a book, taking up zumba, learning a new language, painting, public speaking … you name it, IT takes balls to do and some people drag their cojones behind them in a cart, while others feel like they’re constantly in sub-zero temperatures. You know what I mean.

…criticism can be useful and rejecting it wholesale is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

So I wonder what the middle road is between these two extremes. Sure, we may long to be like the first example, unscathed and undeterred, but criticism can be useful and rejecting it wholesale is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Proactive vs Reactive

1/ Probably as soon as you read or infer the first criticism from someone, you become defensive and act reactively; this is a kneejerk state of mind that you have little control over. None of your best decisions or actions are made reactively. Instead you want to twist that around to a proactive stance.

…their criticisms are in fact a free consultation that you might otherwise have to pay for professionally…

This begins by stopping yourself internally when you sense criticism; instead of being defensive, pretend (even if it’s hard) that this person has your best interests at heart and they genuinely want to help you. Is there anything of merit in what they say? Could you make improvements in those areas that they pick up on? Open your mind to the possibility that their criticisms are in fact a free consultation that you might otherwise have to pay for professionally.

Nobody gains true peace of mind by cussing somebody out, as that just means you are holding onto the resentment and hurt (the angry person drinks poison and expects the other person to die …).

This doesn’t mean take onboard and accept everything they say, it means that you should assess their statements in a proactive manner to see what benefit you can gain from it – even if you conclude that no, in fact your way of doing things IS the best way. Then thank the person either internally or outwardly for their consideration in helping you to be better! Nobody gains true peace of mind by cussing somebody out, as that just means you are holding onto the resentment and hurt (the angry person drinks poison and expects the other person to die …). Learn what you can, if there is anything to learn, and then move on.

Share with a friend

… brainstorm some constructive and inspired ideas for change based on the criticism you have received.

2/ If No. 1 feels like too much to take on, especially if you are standing face-to-face with your nemesis and you can’t think things through on the spot, remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible and take the criticisms to a friend, whom you truly believe and know has your best interests at heart. Share the criticisms with them and ask them to brainstorm some constructive and inspired ideas for change based on the criticism you have received.

So take the criticism as a springboard for brainstorming YOUR ideas for change.

Whether the criticism is justified or not, it is a good opportunity to springboard off the criticism to see how you can improve. The only constant is change – nothing stays the same, and in order to prevent entropy (the idea that all order disintegrates into chaos and disorder) you too must constantly realign your position – mentally, emotionally, professionally, personally – to maintain progress in the direction you desire. So take the criticism as a springboard for brainstorming YOUR ideas for change. We all have a sense of areas that need improving (although often we look away and practise avoidance); criticism is the boot up the bum we sometimes need to address the things that needle even us, if we are honest with ourselves.

Disconnect in order to reconnect

This is not about withdrawing INTO yourself, it’s about coming BACK to yourself.

And if the above two suggestions just seem too much, take time out. Have a break. Disconnect from social media and communication networks. This is not about withdrawing INTO yourself, it’s about coming BACK to yourself. When you take onboard criticism by another person wholesale, you project yourself into their minds and look at yourself through their eyes (and potentially through the eyes of everyone who ever said a bad word against you); this disengages you from who you really are, for that moment you are living another person’s reality, and it may be diametrically opposed or offset from your reality – that’s a painful fit, yet you cram your self-worth into the boxes that others hand you all the time. Disconnecting and taking time out is about springing out of the box.

If you can, go outside, find grass or a tree, sit or stand and breathe in the air, let the sun and breeze clear your head. Take as much time as you need to ground yourself back in your body, in YOUR mind. You are you. You are not the judgements of other people. Your efforts are valid. Be honest with yourself where you can, want to and need to change; but don’t let others bully you into matching the pace they dictate for you. Take your time.

These are my three go-to ways of coping with criticism. They help me, and hopefully you, to find a middle path between being unscathed and being squashed by our self-created leviathans! What tips and tricks do you apply to deal with criticism? Share in the comments below. I’d love to hear what creative tricks you use to manage the sting of criticism. Maybe your comment will help someone else!

©Mav Kühn 2016

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4 comments on “How to take the sting out of criticism!

  1. A Busy Bees Life
    May 9, 2016

    This is a great post Mav! So on point. It can be hard to deal with criticism, for me it really depends on who is doing the criticizing. I love this “So take the criticism as a springboard for brainstorming YOUR ideas for change.” Tweeting this post out, it’s very helpful.

    Like

    • Mav Kühn
      May 9, 2016

      Thanks, Sheri!! I’m so pleased it resonated with you. I really struggle with criticism (don’t we all?) but I’m also very practical and like to find constructive ways to deal with tough emotions. Thanks for sharing the love! ❤

      Like

  2. Hi, Mav! I brainstorm with a friend so I can find a way to react appropriately. I’ve been known to shoot from the hip. I think often the criticism comes from how someone feels about their own lack, so I try to keep this in mind. If they didn’t feel inadequate themselves, they wouldn’t try to make us feel inadequate. It’s not always easy for me, but in the long run, taking the time to formulate a response seems to be the right path.
    Thank you for bringing this to light. 🙂

    Like

    • Mav Kühn
      May 10, 2016

      Hey Joleene! 🙂 I think we can all be guilty of shooting from the hip and sometimes that works, but I prefer a more measured response because I’m not great at thinking on my feet! LOL I recently experienced some passive aggressive criticism from someone who, it seemed, was jealous or at the least discomforted by some recent success that I have had. I had to take a big step back … so far back that it gave me room to write this post! So something good came of it in the end 😉

      Like

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