1) They say something and it hurts you deeply. They may not even know why they were so brutal. The pain inside of you went deep. The scar can last months, years, decades.
Today that pain gets smaller. Today the scars begin to heal. But how? And can you let criticism just “run off your back” like so many say? Here is what you will do, why, how and in the process you learn the truth as you heal.
You want to become immune to criticism!
2) You surprise yourself. YOU were CRUEL. You finally quit talking.You can’t even believe what you said. It is so unlike you. Why did you do it? You hurt them!
You know they hurt. It wasn’t your intention but you must fix it and then you know: YOU can’t BE this critical again.
And while you can’t guarantee it will never happen again we can make massive strides so that you communicate with elegance.
Criticsm Hurts You and Them – Today Both Get Healed
Criticism is a key predictor in determining who will stay married and who will divorce. People who criticize each other… have very little chance.
You can make life memorable. When you are in a relationship…with anyone… be certain that criticism is not in your mind.
Sadly, people have been hurt so much and so often in life that they will think you did the same and you didn’t. But it feels like that to the other person… We’re going to do everthing possible to fix this…once and for all.
Criticism predicts life satisfaction.
Criticism cuts deep into love. It drags productivity at work and causes virtual hatred between some managers and employees, siblings, parents and their kids.
Criticism can be emotionally disempowering and fatal in stopping motivation and desire.
Unfortunately, criticism is also at the core of gossip.
And what is gossip? Evil? Perhaps. Ironically, gossip is part of the super glue that binds people together into groups. It will continue to maintain that evolutionary value for millenia to come. Two people say something nasty to you or about you and they are bound together into a group. You are out.
Being the victim of criticism, dealing with unfair or unsolicited criticism is something most people need to do with much greater elegance.
Imagine someone says…
“The President of the United States has dug the country into a hole so deep it will take a beauty makeover to make it look better…”
That’s a criticism. Criticism like this is critical to our future because there are actions taken at high levels, with overwhelming long term consequences attached that need to be rectified. Unfortunately you and I can’t rectify those things. You can only point the problems out.
Meanwhile…People who are hurting your life probably need to be called out in an appropriate fashion and in an appropriate setting.
Are there any other criticisms that are important to note that have value to the world?
Today, what you and I are talking about are things you and I… and people we care about say and do every day…to each other…things that we say at work, at home, in conversation about people we supposedly care about. This is in large part my concern.
A few quick points before you dig into criticism.
“Fair” and “Unfair” Criticism
Key Point: “Fair” criticism means that what is being said is true. Just because something is true however doesn’t mean the criticism itself is something that needs to be stated. Intention goes deeper than truth. Intent is not the same as “Fair.” Intent matters.
In other words, “Don’t hire Kevin to change your oil in your car, not his area of specialty.”
Fair. It certainly stings a little, but it’s fair and probably not ill intended. Certainly I couldn’t debate the issue!
Key Point: “Intentionally Unfair” criticism is what happens when someone says something about you true or not and it is said with the intent to demean, diminish, or cause pain instead of repair. It’s said to hurt instead of assist.
As a mentor, people pay me to “criticize” then repair and redirect their actions, their business and life strategies” …but not to criticize THEMselves as people.
Doing something foolish is one thing. Being a foolish person is another. Doing something bad is human. Being a bad person is a poor life choice.
“Constructive criticism” is a pretty complex term filled with all kinds of problems but there IS such a thing. Whether there is intention for harm and desired to be heard, is largely what determines whether it is warranted or not. The vast majority of constructive criticism cuts with a knife and is directed with vicious intent.
I constantly seek constructive criticism from a few very select people I trust. The criteria? They relish in my being better, looking better, feeling better, being the best.
Criticism is a pretty complex and sensitive area.
Criticism is something like smacking someone in the head, except with words.
And the fact is that just about all criticism hurts.
All Criticism Stings
One of my mentee’s in the Platinum Inner Circle offered me some “unsolicited feedback.”
His comment was totally accurate. 100%. And I knew that there was not one single ounce of malice in his statement.
But it stung.
And for change to happen, it needs to sting, or what happened would simply occur again in the future.
He made sure I knew that his purpose was not to cause the sting factor.
I knew that of course, as sure as I know you are reading this. But it still stung. Not a lot. Just a little.
So let’s agree that pretty much all criticism, paid/unpaid, solicited/unsolicited, constructive/unconstructive/malicious….
It all hurts.
And the people around you and me all feel the same inside.
Now, I’m not saying you have a challenge with criticism, but let’s just imagine that you could be 10% better in this area…both in shooting out criticism and smarting less when you are on the painful end.
Most people don’t criticize with the intent to do you emotional damage. But that’s what most people do.
What super power do you need to stop hurting when someone criticizes you?
How can you be certain that you will not hurt others when you speak?
Criticism is a Default Behavior (that you can switch on or off!)
Let’s begin with you and I. Let’s take control of what we can control which is us.
We’ll talk about the pain you and I feel when criticized and how to overcome that pain, but for the moment, we focus on our Selves and the challenges we can cause others. Fair?
Oftentimes, when we are confronted with an undesirable situation or event, we tend to criticize or find fault.
What’s going on around here?
What happened here?
Who did this?
All these questions may not necessarily be suggestive of a criticism, but somehow, they are posed in a negative manner.
Criticizing is a reaction that is second nature to most of us….it is a “default behavior.”
Criticizing is part of your biological make up …often without the frontal lobes having a vote on whether the words should depart from the mouth.
People find faults more often than they find solutions. This is because it’s always easier to spot the problem and it is sometimes far more difficult to find the solution.
Anyone can find SOME problem!
To criticize, complain, or condemn others is futile. This only creates more problems than the original ones.
For heaven’s sake, start catching yourself now when you criticize.
The result is at times, dangerous, because criticizing hurts a person’s pride and self-importance, and this leads to resentment.
When people resent you, they will consciously or unconsciously seek and get revenge. One thing is certain. They WILL take the revenge action at some point.
Your marriage, your relationship, your division, your business.
It’s all the same.
Criticism costs you a good life and LOTS of emotional bank account points.
Criticism Causes Resentment and Payback
What is the typical reaction of a person being criticized?
FLIGHT OR FIGHT.
Suppose a homeowner hires a gardener who is responsible for the upkeep of her property. Let us suppose that after a certain period, the gardener finds the work performance of the gardener unsatisfactory. The gardener could do lots of things to change this, but let’s say the options were to select either of the following:
- Tell the gardener straight forward that she is not satisfied with the gardener’s performance and criticize her; or
- Ask the gardener to accompany her in visiting a friend. The homeowners purpose is to show her gardener, her friend’s home that she finds satisfactorily maintained. During the visit, her friend’s gardener can give tips to her gardener on effective procedures.
If you’re the homeowner and you choose the first approach (by criticizing), it is likely that your relationship with your gardener will get strained. The effect of criticizing has a lot to do with the attitude of the person being criticized.
If she takes it lightheartedly, this may not lead to resentment. But if she takes it defiantly, the effects can at times be disastrous or disadvantageous.
EVENTUALLY criticism makes a person defensive. Your defensive gardeners reaction is to find justification for her actions.
Defensive acts will lead to people ripping you off, spreading gossip about you…all kinds of lovely things… (flight/fight)
So let’s FIX IT NOW, stop YOUR PAIN, and never accidentally hurt them again.
An act of diplomacy, free of criticism, could be the right approach to better understanding and cooperation between two people. Going back to the case between the homeowner and gardener, the second approach shows the homeowner’s subtle way of conveying her message to the gardener – how she wants the job done to her satisfaction, without resulting in strained relationships.
Give Them a Second Chance
When you ask a person to do a certain task that results in an outcome that falls short of expectations, quite often you don’t give the person a second chance to prove his worth.
Some factors may have to be taken into consideration depending on the situation at hand. At any rate, improvement, free from criticism, with room for a second chance to prove one’s worth, is a welcome change.
How To Criticize And Still Be Kind
Think about all the people in your life.
Some people say, “you are the nicest guy I’ve ever met.”
Others say, “man you have an edge but you really care.”
Still others say, “you can really be tough on me.”
And the actions on your part are pretty similar in communicating with each of those people.
Their past matters. Did they have a hyper-critical parent or boss? It does matter in how they will experience you.
Have you ever encountered an experience when someone told you how fat you’ve become?
Maybe your boss has commented on how bad your work turned out to be. Maybe you’ve heard from other folks how people view you as cold and unapproachable.
Stings. Sometimes bad. Believe it or not, some people can be so tactless that they are not even aware when they’ve hurt anyone’s feelings.
(Put my picture up on that wall for this sin having been committed…)
The receiving parties, especially the sensitive ones, would be “offended” by their remarks.
This then results in conflicts and arguments.
You know you’re doing them a favor by saving them from shame or disappointment, but would they realize your good intentions instead of feeling hurt by your brutally frank comments or advice?
More likely, they’ll simply think you’re rude or impolite.
KEY QUESTION: What can you do if you really need to assert an honest criticism… but you’re afraid of hurting others’ feelings?
Want to know a helpful strategy?
Take the Sting out of Criticism
Sandwich your “negative” comment between two positive remarks.
For example, your best friend John is going on his very first date. He’s all excited….
Now John doesn’t have any fashion sense. He’s wearing a bland shirt and old jeans.
You know how he hates to admit that he’s wrong. (He’s a guy and when we were born we all took the oath to never admit error.)
So what will you do to save John from an embarrassing first date?
“Hey STOOPID, you want her to laugh when she see’s you?”
Would you say to him that the outfit he’s wearing is repulsive?
You get the idea….
HELPING is never easy…it generally comes across as hurting…bad.
First, point out the things that you like his overall appearance. Comment on his nice looking hair. (Lying can be a means to a greater end….) Tell him he looks cool when wearing his sunglasses. Ask him where he bought his cologne. Be sincere and honest. (Don’t go on and on or John will think you want to date him and that can create all kinds of difficulties…)
Next up….gently note your point of view and recommendation for change. You can tell him something like:
“Hey man, this is your first date, I’m thinking Jasmin will be massively impressed if you wear something like what you wore at that party last month.”
Then make another positive statement. You could say something like:
“You do that and you will rock.”
Do you think John would be offended by the recommendation?
Not likely. You have successfully inserted a slightly negative piece of feedback into a plethora of acceptable and ego-boosting remarks.
People love compliments.
People want to hear how great they are from as many other people as humanly possible!
So if you are going to criticize anybody, remember to praise him first. It will leave a positive impression that you care.
Then say what you have to say, but in a smooth and non-offensive manner. Finalize the communication with another positive reinforcement to establish a foundation of goodwill. It works.
Criticism predictably leads to one thing… and now we must fix your pain…
Why Argue? You Can’t Win Anyway
Have you noticed the predictable outcome of an argument between two people or groups with contradicting views?
Is there really a winner?
To most people, being contradicted and told they are wrong in front of other people is a king size problem. For obvious reasons, (remember biology…flight/fight) no one can tolerate being contradicted, especially in front of others. It is an embarrassment.
When you tell someone they are wrong and another person or group is present you are insulting that person’s ability to perceive reality.
A person forced to submit against his will stays firm in his belief. So what’s the best advice to a situation that seems to lead to an impending argument?
KEY POINT: Welcome an opinion even though it is the opposite of your own.
When two people go into a partnership, let’s say in business, it is normal that disagreements arise. Actually, it is healthy and necessary for business.
Disagreements don’t mean that the partnership will go sour. It’s the exchange of ideas that gives businesses more competitive edges and improvements. Use disagreements to your advantage.
This is especially true to married couples. Husbands and wives may disagree but they ultimately find a common ground to make their relationship stronger. It’s like exploring each other, getting to know your partner better.
Dr. John Gottman shared with me that according to his divorce research, about 70% of all disagreements/arguments that recur are unresolvable. (I think I got that right.)
That’s a pretty amazing statistic and in retrospect, it seems about right.
I mean, you argue about the “same thing” over and over too don’t you?
Agree to Disagree
So instead of criticizing each others viewpoints (what we all used to do), we now agree to disagree on these topics. We make sure the other person knows how we feel and what we think and vice versa.
The key of course is EMOTION.
If you are the temperamental type, learn to control it.
Make every effort to gradually reduce the intensity until you see substantial improvement.
Temper that is out of control is fueled by anger like a forest fire.
How do you keep your tongue from criticizing and expressing your anger to boot?
Well that’s the subject of a book but think about this…
Develop Your Listening Skills
One of the most important character traits you can develop to avoid arguments is to be a good listener.
KEY POINT: Give your ear a chance to listen first before you let words come out of your mouth.
My grandfather used to sit and think for a minute before answering some questions that came his way….now I know why!
And when you do have a word or two to say, try your best to align them in a non-argumentative direction. Be tactful. Dwell on areas where you think you and the other party will agree.
If you make a mistake, acknowledge and apologize accordingly.
Apologizing for mistakes does not make you a lesser person in terms of importance. On the contrary, people feel humbled when apologized to. Apologies bring out the gentle person in you.
Give the other party the benefit of the doubt in his opinion especially when you doubt your own opinion as well. Tell him you will think over his ideas.
This is better than being told later, “I told you so but you wouldn’t listen.” This will also give the two of you a chance to evaluate the problem or issue.
When someone takes the time and the effort to engage in a debate or argument with you, it only shows that he is also interested in the same things as you do. That alone is sufficient reason for you to thank him.
Healing Your Pain from Criticism
You’ve been hurt bad by people criticizing you.
People criticize you to hurt you.
People criticize you to try to change your opinion.
People criticize you because you feel threatening to them.
People criticize you because you accomplished something they never could.
People criticize you because they are jealous or envious of you.
And this is just the beginning. A great deal of people’s every day communication revolves around criticizing others. It is the nature of many people.
Recognize these facts because if you don’t you will always hurt from the arrows of criticism.
When you are criticized, you, or what you think/believe, are perceived as threatening!
STOP and THINK about this.
Your success or attempted success THREATENS their ego and inadequacies.
You don’t need to fix their poor ability to communicate.
They see you as someone doing something that they think gives you an unfair advantage in life. They see you you as strong in some area that they wish they were. They perceive your mind as far greater than theirs.
They tear you down in their mind so they can fit in their own mental painting of life.
You’re true value in life is determined by how you respond to these perceived threats.
I understand as well as anyone that when someone publicly says something unkind in a book review, for example, that it really hurts. (It can hurt in lots of ways actually.) The truth is that you wrote an 80,000 word book. They wrote a 100 word book review. You are 80 times as giving, 80 times as strong, 80 times as important at the critic.
They only have their criticism.
You have accomplishment, you have opinions that are respected and appreciated and there are many people who wish they were you. They wish they would be respected and appreciated.
And some day, when they stop criticizing you and start acknowledging you and the others in their world…they will become valuable as well. But until then, they won’t change because as silly as it sounds YOU are a threat and that is their mental image.
Kevin Hogan Painful Criticism Reduction Formula – Part 1
1) The criticisms that are closer to the truth hurt more than those that are absolutely ridiculous.
“Kev you are really a moron.” That will bring a smile. It doesn’t phase.
“Kev, for a smart man you are a jerk.” That is a wasp sting.
2) The other factor that is a big pain generator is the audience. Who ELSE was in the room? Who else will see the review? Did they say this so that everyone could hear it/see it?
“That hair cut looks terrible.” I’m the only one in the room, it hurts but I obviously need the input. It needs to be fixed. There is a much nicer way to phrase that, they chose not too. That is a shame but it’s life.
“That hair cut looks terrible.” I’m on stage and the person said it from the audience. That hurts very bad. That was designed to hurt. It’s a tough one and requires what will follow in a moment.
Criticism obviously has contexts like every other communication.
This understanding helps and is step one. “Are they close to accurate with their assessment?” (BE HONEST WITH YOUR SELF.)
If they are close to accurate. I say to myself, “They could have said it in a kinder way, but whatever, I do look terrible in this suit.”
If they are not close to accurate, I say to myself, “their opinion is simply wrong and I don’t have the time or inclination to argue.”
Accuracy matters. Fix it and it doesn’t come up again.
The audience matters. I will respond, “ohhhhh man, I know.” Then I will put an arrow through my heart, nonverbally to show I understood but it hurt. This action actually helps me prepare to laugh which is for the people at the table, in the living room or in the audience.
There are also BIG criticsms vs. SMALL criticisms.
I’m like anyone else where a big criticism can hurt really bad. That will require fixing something if the criticism is correct and literally correcting the person on the spot. “Deliver that message like this…” and then fill in the blank.
We’ll talk more criticism pain repair next time. For now, utilize these aspects and master them. The pain will begin to reduce and your own awareness of what is true and what is not true will become more important so you can see it as having had SOME value and thus less judgment of the other person.
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