Many people fear criticism. Naturally, we want to avoid that which might upset us or make us anxious. This can play out in many areas of our lives: At work, we might fear criticism from our managers and colleagues, so we keep quiet and don’t share our opinions. We play it safe. At home, we may fear that we’ll be criticized by a spouse or partner so we don’t speak our minds. We back down when we sense conflict. In friendships, we can lose a sense of boundaries because we fear doing so will lead to criticism or we will be viewed as selfish. Whatever the setting, it’s this fear that keeps us stuck.
If you feel stressed about the criticism you may receive, Here’s how to deal:
1. Focus on what you believe in and what you did right.
Be careful not to take criticism to heart or let it define you. If valid, it’s a learning opportunity. If it isn’t, then it’s a reminder that your ideas hit a nerve and can potentially be polarizing, or maybe an opportunity to re-evaluate your approach or message. Stay focused on what’s most important: your views and beliefs.
2. Speak your mind.
Don’t be deterred by opposing views or criticism. Doing so is avoidance and that will make you weaker, not stronger. Don’t let others define you. Know what you believe in and stand firm. In my 2012 New York Times opinion piece, I took a chance and expressed my views, even though I knew they may not be well-received by colleagues. I did it because I truly believed in what I said.
3. Accept the notion that there will be some people who love you and others who don’t.
It’s hard to please everyone. Diverse opinions are what ultimately lead to better outcomes.
4. Change your self-talk.
Instead of thinking, “I can’t deal with this” or “Maybe they are right about me”, think, “I am strong and can roll with the punches” or “Others don’t define me, I define me”.
5. Wait before responding.
Your initial response to criticism might be emotionally-laden and likely will not help you to handle the situation in a healthy way. Pause, take a deep breath, and wait. Then when you have a clear head formulate a response.
Reframe the criticism and understand it may not be about you per se, but rather something bigger. For example, if your manager talks about how outcomes are poor lately and the department has gone downhill over the last quarter, you might respond by saying, “I understand that it’s important to make sure we maintain our high level of quality. I will do my best to ensure I do everything I can to uphold the standard.”
7. Move on.
Thank the person for the feedback, tell him or her you’ll give it more thought, and then move forward. Don’t dwell on it. Dwelling will only hold you back.
Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days by Jonathan Alpert.
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