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Dealing with Non-Constructive Criticism

Dealing with Non-Constructive Criticism

The human ego is at once both an incredibly powerful and terribly fragile beast.

With a swift boost, it can will us over seemingly insurmountable obstacles that we would have otherwise struggled with. Yet with an equally as swift kick to the temple, it can drag us down into feelings of despair and self-pity, preventing us from achieving what’s important to us.

That’s why it’s important to keep a regular check on our ego, especially when it comes to unjust shcriticism.

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Haven’t we all heard the tales of people criticized by friends, peers and maybe even overbearing parents to such an extent that they grew up believing themselves to be as worthless, weak or stupid as those around them had said they were.

If we hope to achieve anything in life, we must prevent criticism from holding us back to the point that even though we may see the opportunities that lay ahead, we don’t believe ourselves to be good enough, or strong enough, or smart enough to pursue them.

Dealing with Non-Constructive Criticism

We’re not talking about utilizing constructive criticism, and using feedback to further improve a piece of work or, in some cases, a piece of ourselves.

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Though some people don’t even handle that very well, what we’re really talking about here is the unfair, unjust, often harsh criticism that often takes the form of a personal attack. Though such attacks can be hurtful or otherwise detrimental, it is possible to handle them with the kind of care, which ensures that not only does our ego survive unharmed; our self-esteem can actually be bolstered by harsh words. All it takes it to look at these attacks with a different perspective and ask ourselves a couple of questions.

  • Is this really an attack, or are we taking constructive criticism too personally?

Let’s face it; there are a lot of people out there who just aren’t the world’s greatest communicators. They probably meant to give us some helpful advice or feedback from which we could actually use, but they went about it an altogether unhelpful fashion.

Or maybe they did mean to attack or insult us, and yet somewhere in their words, we can find a glimmer of truth. Give some thought to the underlying message of the ‘attack’ and see if you can’t glean something positive from it.

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  • If it is constructive criticism, what can we gain from it?

Is there something we can learn? Something we can utilize to improve a project or a personal attribute?

  • If it’s merely an outright attack, why?

‘They’re just jealous’ often seems like a childish response to criticism, but half the time it’s actually a reasonable response. It isn’t uncommon for people to feel threatened by another’s success or happiness. Nor is it particularly unreasonable to suggest that some folks feel a certain resentment towards others because they struggle to understand a person’s motives or ambitions. Their view of the world struggles to comprehend that of another individual and they feel like they need to attack or demean that person until he or she comes around to their way of thinking. This is entirely unhealthy of course, but it happens.

You could try talking to your aggressor, not necessarily to win them over to your way of thinking, but at least to help them understand that your success, happiness, or way of life detracts nothing from theirs. They are free to do whatever makes them happy just as you are.

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If that fails, it may simply be necessary to strengthen your resolve. You know in your heart and in the pit of your gut that what you’re doing is the right thing for you. Providing the only way you’re hurting this other person is in a manner made up entirely in their own mind, you can carry on safe in the knowledge that your ego and self-esteem remain balanced.

With that, you can safely overcome those insurmountable obstacles and seize those all-important opportunities remaining confident that you are indeed good enough as you are, yet always remaining willing to improve at the behest of fair, constructive criticism.

Featured photo credit:  Closeup of many fingers pointing at man via Shutterstock

More by this author

Chris Skoyles

Coach, and trainee counsellor specializing in mental health and addiction.

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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