Some tips and tricks for handling criticism
We all like to believe that we can handle criticism well, after all, it’s a very key part of human interaction and is how we learn and grow. That being said, knowing this doesn’t always stop the sting we get when someone’s words hit a little too close to home. This is especially true if tensions are high; we may feel ourselves getting angry or upset and take things personally, with reason going completely out the window. We’ve all been there- our boss tells us a project we’ve worked hard on just isn't up to standard, or a conversation with a close friend turns sour. These situations are difficult to work through proactively, so Bamae has provided you with some tips and tricks to help you handle these moments with grace.
Evaluate their intentions
It might be that they’re having their own issues, or their problems are bigger than they portray It’s in these moments that we need to be the most vigilant, because in moments of irritation we are more likely to respond in kind. Try to look at the bigger picture in these moments and decide for yourself if the other person is trying to help you improve, or is simply looking to let off some steam.
Criticism may help as much as it hurts, and you get to decide if what is being said is constructive to you, but you should try and come to those conclusions without the additional influence of the high-strung feelings. More often than not, criticism is a way for people to put forward concerns they may want you to improve on rather than a show of judgment and rejection that it may feel like.
One of the biggest pieces of advice I ever received was- people set boundaries with you because they want to stay with you, not because they want to leave. The same goes for criticism- people often want to avoid conflict as much as you do, so bringing these issues to the forefront must be something they consider worth the potential fallout. With this in mind, it’s only right to meet them in the middle the best you can, and come to a reasonable conclusion.
Recognise when you get defensive
When we receive news we don’t necessarily want, we will subconsciously trigger the fight or flight response. We prepare ourselves for a fight without even realising we are doing it, or get ready to disengage with the conversation entirely. Although this is totally natural, this often means that we don’t always take in information that can be useful to us.
Try to pay attention to how you react to unpleasant situations; you may notice a shot of adrenaline go through you. Your body is preparing you for threats that were once far less complicated than they are now, so these reactions do little to help us in the more nuanced social situations.
Set boundaries when appropriate
When talks happen they can get heated, we get stressed and tensions rise. This is normal, but it can also lead to less than productive back and forth if left to go rampant. These discussions should not be a space that unnecessary comments and insults are appropriate, and if such an instance does occur, making it clear that inappropriate comments are not welcome in a constructive space is essential. It can be extremely tempting to match this energy with a similar attitude- which can lead to a conversation quickly becoming an argument. We can make things worse if we react defensively to points from the other party, so keeping a level head can also help to stop conversations from devolving fast.
It’s okay to say to the other person that you are not in the right headspace to really listen, but it’s important to phrase this correctly. Make it clear that you are and will continue to think about this conversation and that it is important that you continue it, but that having this conversation at that moment would mean you are not able to take in what they say and fully engage. People want to be taken seriously and listened to, so showing this can help to calm any tensions and let future talks be more productive.
Leave, think, return
Sometimes we don’t say all we mean too in the heat of the moment. How many of us come away from an argument or important discussion and then think of a thousand more appropriate responses than the one we went with? To avoid the future you kicking yourself, sometimes it’s useful to listen during the initial conversation, then take some time away from the initial talk to think things over and consider your own points accordingly.
The key is to respond in the same way you would a conversation, rather than reacting in a way you would an argument. The way you would handle this is also entirely dependent on who exactly is providing you with criticism. If it’s our boss, we may feel more inclined to listen because of the nature of the workplace dynamic. If it’s from a friend or stranger, this can really affect the way we respond to what they say. We may feel that our friends can have a greater say because they know us or vice versa because you hope they will support you.
It’s difficult, but we can respond to these moments far better if we separate the information from the person giving it. If you can recognise that the information is sound, but still feel rather affronted that they would say these things to you, try to piece together why exactly that might be. Is it something you feel insecure about before the conversation started? Or perhaps it’s the opposite, and bringing this up feels like a blow to the ego.
When these moments happen, they can make us want to ruminate on everything we’ve said and done, poking emotional wounds and kicking ourselves over everything we could’ve done differently. Try to be patient with yourself, and remember that you are battling instinct and social cues all at once. If you still screw up, it’s a good opportunity for next time. Even the worst possible interaction can be a good example of what can be improved on- and has value in the grand scheme of things. We are very complicated creatures, and we should try to remember that this applies to all faculties of our lives.