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Embracing Criticism and Negative Feedback

Ask yourself what typical response (thoughts and feelings) you experience when you receive comments or opinions from other people about something you have done that are not positive or complimentary.  Do you become angry, hurt, and defensive or do you take the information, absorb it, and consider how you can use the feedback to benefit yourself and your relationships?  More often than not, most of us have a tendency to respond to criticism and negative feedback in the former way, especially when we associate criticism with past experiences of blame or rejection. 

Criticism can often be attributed to beliefs about how we view ourselves rather than on the behaviors or actions we engage in.  As a result, we often misperceive positively intended messages to be portrayed as disapproval and judgmental and we can miss out on opportunities for growth and understanding.  So instead of shutting down, becoming defensive, and distancing ourselves from people and situations associated with criticism, we can take steps that will help us acknowledge, evaluate, and consider areas of improvement we can focus on. 

1.     Separate the specific action or behavior the feedback is associated with from who you are as an individual.  Just because someone does not like how you did something does not mean they do not like you as person.  Challenge yourself to take a step back and identify what the feedback is about to avoid assumption-making and blowing situations out of proportion. 

2.     Consider negative feedback from different perspectives by asking yourself if it is true, not true, or partially true.  Consider the perspective of the individual you received the feedback from in order to help challenge your initial reaction.

3.     Determine the value of your relationship with the individual.  Some questions to ask yourself include: on a scale of 1-10, how important is this individual to you? How do I want this person to perceive me? What am I willing to do in order to maintain this relationship?

4.     Assess your needs associated with self-respect.  Clarify how you want to feel about yourself and the specific steps you need to take in order to achieve that feeling so that you are being fair to yourself and to others.

5.     Think before responding.  We typically respond differently when we act out of our emotions so in order to prevent ourselves from regretting something we have said or done, take time to identify how you are feeling and what your core values are.

6.     Respond with assertive communication.  Start by acknowledging the feedback you received and then use ā€œIā€ statements to share your thoughts and feelings about it. 

7.     Elicit feedback in order to identify opportunities for growth. Whether you agree with the criticism you received or not, ask for specific alternative behaviors or actions you can consider taking in the future in order to improve your relationships and interactions with others.

~ Cory Stege, M.S., LMFT