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The Art Of Taking Criticism: Get Curious?

The Art Of Taking Criticism: Get Curious?

“When I am criticized, I feel ____.”

If you are like most people, you complete the aforementioned sentence with words like, “hurt, angry, defensive, dejected, disappointed, embarrassed, put-down, failure, no good, resentful” or other words that communicate the same meaning.

Indeed, few of us come home, call up a friend, or tell our partner, “Hey, I had a great day today… I got criticized.” Few people raise their hand when I ask, “How many of you like to be criticized”

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The reality is that for most people, criticism often arouses anger, anxiety, conflict in their relationships. At work, it often sours relationships with the boss, colleagues, staff, and clients too. At home, there is a plethora of research indicating that frequently mismanaged criticism is a prelude to an unhappy marriage, and parenting skills that impede (rather than enhance) a child’s development.

Yet, there is an equal amount of research that indicates giving and taking criticism productively is a key attribute of successful individuals, marriages, and organizations. Here, criticism is used as a tool to promote intimacy, enhance performance, and develop positive relationships.

What can you do to enhance your ability to take criticism productively? (Giving criticism productively will be for another day.) Perhaps hearing about one of my recent teaching experiences will get you started.

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Not long ago, I gave the top 100 partners of one of the world’s largest service firms a presentation on criticism.

“What’s the best way to learn about yourself?” was the first question. It was the class opener, if you will. “Take some psychological testing,” was one response. “Go to a therapist,” was another. Somebody earnestly offered, “Reflect and take stock of yourself.”

“Here’s another,” I told them. “Ask for criticism.” My suggestion surprised the group and they became more attentive.

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I explained that criticism is all around us – in our work relationships, marriages, parenting, and friends. It is everywhere. Received openly, it enhances all aspects of our lives, including making a performance appraisal more useful, making a marriage more satisfying, and developing our leadership capacities. Literally dozens of studies support that giving and taking criticism well is crucial to our success in life.

Yet, for most of us, hearing criticism about ourselves (or our work) is upsetting. In our minds, we think of criticism as a hostile attack. In our bodies, we feel it with a fear and anxiety response. This response translates into defensive behavior, which more often than not decelerates our learning and often prevents us from profiting from the information given, to say nothing of how it adds conflict to our personal relationships. How many films have you seen where criticism between daughter and mother, father and son, brothers and sisters, poisons the relationship? I can name dozens.

“Be curious about criticism,” is the prescription for regulating your defensive arousal. Adapt the attitude that “the person is telling me something he or she thinks is important. I need to know more.” This allows you to approach criticism with a friendlier attitude, and as a result, you can become more physically relaxed and learn. Curiosity “arousal” is pleasant.

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To spark your curiosity and buffer your defensiveness, think of criticism as “information that can help me grow.”

Accelerate your learning by soliciting criticism from those around you. Try and phrase it positively: “What are some things that I could be doing better?” Not: “What am I doing wrong?”

When you hear the response, delay your own – which most likely, even with your new curious attitude, will be defensive. Instead, thank them for their thoughts and spend the next few days not retreating from them, but instead exploring the implications and applications of what they told you. It won’t take long for you to realize that you will not die from what you heard. Criticism is not a “lion, tiger, or bear – “Oh, my!”.

Evaluate criticism with curiosity. This attitude will help you discover the perceptions of others so that you can profit from them.

Please note: Chances are great that you will be criticized before you go to sleep. When it happens, please think about what you just read. Thank you. Leave a comment below. I would love to hear how you typically respond to criticism.

More by this author

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Last Updated on August 20, 2018

60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life

60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life

Sometimes it’s easier to focus on what we don’t have, rather than what we do have. It’s important to take time out and remember all of the things to be thankful for that many of us take for granted.

    Here you’ll find 60 very solid things to be thankful for in your everyday life. These are great reminders for you to treasure everything you have.

    1. Good Health

    Even if you’re health isn’t great, it could be worse and you likely still have some working parts to be thankful for.

    2. Money in the Bank

    Having just a few coins makes you richer than most people on Earth.

    3. Good Friends

    Often, it’s the quality of friendships, not the quantity.

    4. Freedom of Religion

    Being able to worship whomever and however you want is something many people don’t ever experience.

    5. Your Parents

    Even if they’re dysfunctional, they gave you life.

    6. Weekends

    There’s something magical about weekends.

    7.Having a Partner

    Being in a romantic relationship can teach you so much about the world and yourself.

    8. Pets

    Pets offer one of the best examples of unconditional love.

    9. Learning from Mistakes

    If we never made mistakes, we wouldn’t learn much so it is one of those things we should be thankful for.

    10. Opportunity to Get an Education

    The opportunity to attend school is something many people don’t have.

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    11. Having a Home

    Whether you live in an apartment, a mansion, or a tent, having a place to call home is something to be thankful for.

    12. An Ability to Read

    If you’re reading this right now, you have a lot to be thankful for.

    13. Breathing Fresh Air

    Being able to step outside to breathe in fresh air is a good reminder how many little things we should be thankful for.

    14. A Bed to Sleep

    A bed is one of those things that’s easy to take for granted, until you don’t have one.

    15. Laughter

    Without laughter, the world would be a sad place.

    16. Safety and Security

    Being able to wake up without immense fear frees us up to really live life.

    17. Cars

    Without cars, it would take a lot longer to get our activities done.

    18. Sunshine

    The sun’s warmth can brighten any day.

    19. Time

    Although we often don’t think there’s enough of it, time is something we shouldn’t take for granted.

    20. Clean Water

    Many people on earth lack access to clean water.

    21. Cell Phones

    Cell phones make talking to loved ones easy.

    22. Love

    The world sure would be a different place if we lacked the ability to love.

    23. Books

    Books provide an opportunity to enter another world all from the comfort of your own home.

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    24. Kindness of Strangers

    Never take the kindness of a stranger for granted.

    25. Campfires

    The simplicity of a campfire creates lifelong memories.

    26. Pain

    Without pain, it would be difficulty to appreciate life’s joys.

    27. Art

    The world would be less beautiful if art didn’t exist.

    28. Holidays

    Any reason to celebrate is something we should be thankful for.

    29. Freedom of Speech

    Being able to express your thoughts and feelings freely should never be taken for granted.

    30. Rainbows

    The beauty of a rainbow is unmatched.

    31. Tears

    Sometimes when there are no words to say, tears express how we feel for us.

    32. Waking up Today

    Simply waking up today means you have things to be thankful for.

    33. Indoor Plumbing

    Indoor plumbing not only provides convenience, it spares us from disease.

    34. Wisdom that Comes with Age

    Thankfully, we grow smarter over time.

    35. Mountains

    Mountains provide us with beauty and recreation.

    36. Eyesight

    Being able to see allows us to view the world’s beauty.

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    37. Grocery Stores

    Grocery stores mean we don’t have to spend all of our time getting our own food.

    38. Sunsets

    Sunsets are a reminder that we should enjoy the simple things in life.

    39. Entertainment

    Entertainment gives us a way to relax and enjoy life.

    40. Your Mind

    Being able to think, remember, and solve problems sure makes life easier.

    41. Employment

    Even if you don’t like your job, being employed means someone thought you were special enough to hire.

    42. Diversity

    The world would be a boring place without diversity.

    43. Moon and Stars

    The moon and stars encourage us to dream.

    44. Electricity

    Electricity makes most of our chores efficient.

    45. Air Conditioning

    Staying cool on a hot day is something people wouldn’t have dreamed about in past centuries.

    46. Hearing

    Being able to hear your loved one’s voice is something that not everyone gets to do.

    47. Children

    Watching children laugh, grow, and dream can keep things in perspective.

    48. Ability to Learn

    The ability to learn new things means we have endless potential.

    49. People Willing to Teach

    Whether it’s your grandmother teaching you to knit or your plumber showing you how to prevent future problems, be grateful that others are willing to use their time and talents to teach you something new.

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    50. Oceans

    The sea creatures in the ocean almost seem too mystical to be real.

    51. Modern Medicine

    Without advances in modern medicine, many of us wouldn’t be alive.

    52. Music

    Music brings out new emotions.

    53. Entrepreneurs

    Some of life’s best inventions resulted from an entrepreneur who was willing to take a risk.

    54. Warm Clothing

    On a cold day, there’s nothing more important than warm clothing.

    55. Freedom to Vote

    Being able to have a say in the laws should never be taken for granted.

    56. An Internet Connection

    It’s hard to believe how easy it is to take the internet for granted, seeing how none of us had just a couple of decades ago.

    57. Challenges

    Without challenges in life, we wouldn’t be the people we are now.

    58. Hiking Trails

    Hiking trails give us the chance to enjoy mother’s nature beauty.

    59. Vaccines

    Many of us wouldn’t be alive without today’s vaccinations.

    60. Armed Forces

    Our lives would likely be very different if we didn’t have protection from the armed forces.

    Realizing all the things you should be thankful for is the first step, practicing gratitude is what you should start doing:

    6 Ways To Implement More Gratitude In Your Life

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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