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You have landed on this page because you want to learn how to deal with criticism in a more appropriate manner.

 

How to respond gracefully to criticism?

 

 

Is the criticism the problem or is it the meaning that you give it that is the problem?

It is not uncommon for people to have a negative response to criticism yet there are others who deal with it like water dripping off a ducks back. Perhaps the way that you respond to criticism is due to the frame of mind that you hold?

For example, someone makes a comment about you on an Internet site. What meaning do you give the words and how do you know that you have given it the correct meaning? What else could it mean?

Sometimes the problem may be that we just come to a conclusion too quickly without even having checked to clarify what the other person means. So what mechanisms do we need to put in place such that it gives us time to think about how to respond, such that perhaps we procrastinate on our response and never quite get around to feeling bad?

Step one is to frame every comment as just feedback - it is just a communication. Then we need to think about the comment through a number of frames of mind such that we maintain distance from the comment. For example, what words did the person use? Did they use abbreviations, slang; are there misspelled words; how old does the person sound; male or female; what education do you think they might have and is there any indication of culture or ethnicity?

What tonality do you read into the words? If you change the tonality, that is give it a different voice like playfulness then how does this change the meaning?

Where do you think the person who wrote the comment was coming from? That is, who is the person? Do you know what their model of the world is - that is their background, their upbringing, ethnicity, education, life experiences, age, health, financial situation, career, lifestyle and their spirituality, attitudes, values and beliefs? (See NLP Peace Mapping Model.)

Could this person have been reacting? Could they have been making a comment based upon insufficient information? Could they have had a bad day? Could they be stressed? Could they be venting?

What does the comment say about them? What do you think their highest positive intention might have been? What do you think they were trying to communicate and for what purpose? And one more thought, is it any of your business what they think about you anyway?

So we start by framing every comment as just information. Then we bring a sense of acknowledgement for who this person is, and to where they might be coming from, and what it might be like to be them and why they are behaving this way. So we look for prior causes and events in the person's life to give us an explanation why they speak this way? We acknowledge that they must have a positive intention. Even if the communication is hateful we can still learn to look at it as just a communication and have compassion for what must have occurred in the person's life for them to behave this way.

So what frames of mind would be useful to keep in mind such that we can allow the other person to be who they are and we get to maintain a positive state of mind? We might not like the other person, we might not like what they say or do, or what they represent but it helps no-one if we react emotionally.

So what frames of mind would stop you from hooking into the content? What frames of mind would help you to step back and get some distance? At times we might want to get close to someone; at times we might want to invite someone inside our boundary system, yet at other times we may need the ability to step back and be a dispassionate observer.

To free ourselves from a negative response to criticism we need to understand that we are the meaning maker - we are the one who frames the communication as criticism. We need to unhook and accept the other person for who they are. Not that we need to agree with that person or like the person just that in accepting the other for who they are it sets us free. Which is what we are after - freedom - a state of mind that allows us to move through the world with a growing sense of curiosity, fascination and playfulness.

 

Learn to respond to criticism step by step.

There are a number of steps to learning how to respond to criticism gracefully.

1. Start with awareness. Without awareness you are just a robot - so practise bringing awareness to the process of how you respond to criticism? What is the first thing that lets you know that it is time to react? Is it something that you see, something that you read, the look on someone's face; a picture that you make in your mind; something that you hear, is it a specific word or the volume and tonality of someone's voice; is it something that you say to yourself?

2. Practice meditation. Putting aside the lifestyle, the religion, the philosophy that has grown up around meditation then meditation at its simplest is the process of being a dispassionate observer, of quietening the mind and of entering a state of beingness.

So in the same way that you can notice the movement of wind through a tree you can also learn to notice the thoughts in your mind. The process of meditation is actually quite simple and it only takes a couple of hours to learn how to silence the internal dialogue. The more you just notice the thoughts the more they lose their power and you find yourself naturally experiencing a state of peacefulness.

3. Practise setting frames of mind. Practise setting an intention then take action with purpose. For example, one afternoon I knocked off from work and visited a camera store to buy a piece of equipment. However, the frame of mind that I was in was more suited to a walk along the beach rather than a technical conversation with a sales person about a professional piece of camera equipment.

As a result I made a poor decision which meant that I needed to return to the shop the next day so this time when I left home I set an intention that I was visiting the camera shop for a specific purpose. I reviewed the technical details in my mind and rehearsed the questions that I would ask of the sales person. Before I walked into the shop I set a frame of mind. In some cases I will literally mark out a frame with my hands. In this case I just imagined a picture frame in front of me and I said to myself, "What frame of mind do I need?" I responded, "Chatty. I want to be chatty when I walk into that shop".

To reiterate, before I left home I set an intention for the visit to the camera shop. Just before I walked into the shop I set a frame of mind by making a semantic gesture and telling myself the state that I needed to operate from.

On walking into the store I immediately engaged the shop keeper with clarity and precision. Once the transaction had been completed I browsed the store and found myself chatting with a couple of customers. I remember the rapport with the customers being so strong that I had to pull back and take my leave.

Hmm? So could it be as simple as that? You set an intention for what you want to do and how you want to behave and feel. And then on arriving in the context you affirm to your unconscious mind what resources you need and how you want to frame the conversation. Most importantly you need to have the awareness of knowing when to change the frame of mind. For example, some people get habituated to a work frame of mind and bring that frame back into their home life. Awareness is always the key.

 

Questions, statements and commands.

Context plays a part in how we respond to criticism. Context in itself creates a frame. The communication could be written on a website, delivered in an email or a text message to mobile phone. Or it could be face-to-face in a number of different contexts, some of which could be more challenging than others. For example, most people would find it quite challenging being interviewed live on television by an aggressive interviewer. So what to do when someone has an agenda and they are out to 'get you'? What sleight of mouth tools would help you to deflect the comments such that you get time to plan your responses artfully like a martial artist?

A communication can be delivered either as a statement, question or command and the tonality of voice determines whether the utterance is a question, statement or command. The words may be the same but the tonality changes the meaning. For example, the tonality of a statement is even; the tonality of a question rises at the end, while the tonality of a command drops at the end of the sentence.

Statements deliver information. Commands direct in some way or another but questions invite us to think. There are three main types of questions for the purposes of this article.

Direct questions

With a direct question we are asking for specific information. Direct questions are closed, yes/no type questions.

  • Example: How many refugees are there in the world?
  • Example: What is the ethnicity and religion of those refugees?

Leading questions

A leading question directs the listener to respond in a certain way. It often starts with a statement followed by a question.

If the listener accepts the presuppositions in the statement and attempts to directly answer any questions that follow the statement then they are being directed to think and answer in a manner that suits the interviewer. For example.

Statement: "Recently a boat load of asylum seekers sank off the coast of North West Australia. Ninety people drowned, men, women and children."

Question 1: "Do you think that we should just allow people to drown like this?"

How ever the listener responds to this question they are at the mercy of the questioner - they are trapped. It is in cases like this that people get into arguments, partly because one or both of the parties may be trying to regain and redefine their boundary system. Part of the answer is to ensure that you are on the same page. The NLP Peace Mapping Model can help you with this. Part of the answer is to refuse to be seduced by the language pattern.

Question 2: "Where was the Australian Navy when the asylum seeker boat sank?"

This could be a direct question but depending upon how the question is delivered (tonality and body language) it could also be a leading question as it presupposes that the Australian Navy may have some connection or responsibility with the incident.

Open ended questions

An open ended type question typically starts with a question like, "What" "How" "Why" and "Where", or phrases such as "Tell me about..." Typically an open ended question is preceded by a statement. An open ended question is designed to gather information and the respondent is free to answer in any way that they choose.

Statement: "Recently a boat load of asylum seekers sank off the coast of North West Australia. Ninety people drowned, men, women and children. In recent years people trafficking has become a major problem in the World. It is easy to hook into the drama and the tragedy but this does not solve the problem."

Question:"To find a solution to this complex problem what are the questions that you think that governments and individuals need to be asking? Which governments and which individuals specifically?"

 

Give yourself the time to choose how to respond.

Statements, questions and commands set the frame for a conversation. Statements deliver information. The information may be delivered matter of factly or it can be delivered with emotion, with judgement, as a suggestion, or as a command but no one likes to be told what to do, to think or to believe.

Questions on the other hand invite the listener to respond. As the respondent if you feel that the questioner is leading you in some way, that is directing you to think and say something which is more about them than you, then trust your feelings. Intuitively we know when we are being led 'along the garden path'. It does not feel comfortable and it indicates a lack of respect for the integrity of the listener.

Questions, statements and commands set a frame for the conversation but you do not have to accept that frame. Go with your gut feeling. If it does not feel right then back off. Is the other person telling or are they asking questions? Does it sound like they have an agenda? Does the way that they talk and express themselves through body language - does it look like, sound like and feel like they are giving you the freedom to be yourself? Are they asking questions to gather information or does it sound like they already know the answer?

If you get statements and questions that hook you into content (presuppositions) then you don't have to answer the question. But how do you do that gracefully?

  1. Ask the person if they have an agenda? What do they want from the conversation? What is the topic of the conversation? See the NLP Peace Mapping Model.
  2. Tell the person that they have used a particular type of question which is directing you to answer in a particular way.
  3. Tell the person that it seems like they know the answer so in that case they might as well answer it for themself.
  4. Ask the person, "What do you think?" This is the sales person's tactic of answering a question with a question.
  5. Ask the person what is important to them about having a conversation? And what else is important to them about having a conversation? This will elicit their values and give you room to manoeuvre and get into a resource state.
  6. To take the concepts that you have learned in this article and muscle them into your body such that they become second nature for you - use the Mind to Muscle Pattern.

__ © Author Abby Eagle

 

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