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How To Take Criticism Like Donald Trump

How To Take Criticism Like Donald Trump

Donald Trump & Melania (Courtesy of Boss Tweed via flickr)

    Donald Trump & Melania (Courtesy of Boss Tweed via flickr)

    I’ve noticed lately that people aren’t very good at handling criticism, even when they’ve asked for it.

    Our natural tendency when given advice or criticism is to become defensive and upset. We try to convince the person they’re wrong (or at least to see it from our perspective) which, ironically, has the exact opposite of the intended effect.

    Know what the single most effective way is to disarm criticism?  Agree with it.

    You can imagine some common situations where this might come up…

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    • You’re making a presentation at work and afterward someone asks a “hostile” question which challenges you in front of everyone.
    • You’re selling your car and a potential buyer comments that the color or condition is really not to their liking.
    • A friend/mentor/family member tries to offer you some honest feedback which you feel is totally unwarranted.

    Most people will react to all of these in a similar way: a defensive and reactive position.  You can immediately see it in their eyes: it is an emotional response and they get upset.

    • “Actually I made the chart that way on purpose.  I included the extra data because it’s important to the overall message and the other people I showed it to didn’t think it detracted from the presentation at all.”
    • “Really, you don’t like the color?  That’s strange because I get compliments on it all the time.  It’s hard to find this color actually, it’s a rare commodity.”
    • “What do you mean I’m not focused?  I work really hard.  I mean just because I’m doing those two things doesn’t mean I can’t put all my effort into it!”

    In each of these cases, have you convinced the person of your point of view?  Most likely the answer is no.  In fact, you have further reinforced their original belief in their own mind.  If you could spell out the internal dialog going on in their heads it would be something like this:

    • “Woa!  I guess I hit a nerve with that one.  SOMEBODY can’t take advice…not only does the chart suck but he/she is in denial about it, nice!”
    • “Great…you love the color idiot.  You’re not buying it, I am, and I’m losing interest by the second because you’re starting to annoy me.”
    • “Geez…I guess I won’t bring that up again.  It’s a shame because we’ve all know this about John for years…it’s obvious to all of us but we just can’t seem to get it through to him.  Maybe if a few more of us mention it.”

    There is an important rule behind all of this that I’d like you to remember:

    The more defensive you become, the more likely that the person criticizing you is actually right!

    Really…think about it for a moment.  What if someone came up to you and said “Your name is Bubba Gump”.  Would this upset you?  Since your name is obviously NOT Bubba Gump, this is a ridiculous accusation and the chances of this getting an emotional response out of you are slim.

    But what if someone came up to you and said “You smell bad”.  Well, it’s still pretty ridiculous but you know what, we all do smell bad at times, and hey…there may be a little bit of truth to that.  You might start to get a little bit defensive: “What?  I don’t smell bad, what are you talking about?”

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    Now if we look at a statement that is even farther along the spectrum: “You are actually the most selfish person that I know.  All of your friends talk about you behind your back and say how selfish you are.  If you dropped dead tomorrow no one would care.”  Now THAT is likely to get an emotional response!  Why?  Because there is some truth to it.  We all are a little selfish sometimes and think about ourselves probably more than we should.  And, even though its unpleasant to think about, if we did drop dead tomorrow a lot of people wouldn’t care!  Damnit, they’re right and that pisses me off!  (An emotional response.)

    Since I’ve learned this, it has played out to be true in my own life.  Whenever someone makes a comment that really gets to me, I’ll end up finding out (usually much later) that they were actually mostly right.  Think back to an example in your own life when a comment really got to you personally.  Did it end up being true?

    How To Diffuse Any Criticism

    Hopefully that gives you a little insight into criticism and when you should take it seriously.  Now lets focus on how to diffuse criticism that you don’t want.

    At the beginning I said that the secret to diffusing criticism is to agree with it.  I can hear you asking, “but Brian, what if the criticism really is wrong??  I can’t just agree with it!”

    True, but you can do what I call “tacitly agreeing” or “indirect agreement”.  You do this by saying something like “thats a good point, thanks for that” or “you know you’re right, there might be some truth to that, I’ll have to consider it”.

    Have you really agreed to anything?  No.  But you have taken the wind out of their sails.

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    Imagine for a moment someone giving a speech in front of a huge audience.  The speaker finishes and Q&A begins where the audience can ask questions.  The first question comes from a very hostile listener who clearly disagrees with everything that has been said.  He or she begins their rant (disguised as a question), very eager to have the stage for a moment, and begins to insult and criticize every notion that the speaker has brought up.  The rest of the audience is silently thinking to themselves “wow this is really uncomfortable, this guy is really going at it”.  Finally, the speaker has a chance to respond.

    There are really two ways he could respond, and I want you to think about what each response communicates to the audience.  The “subtext”, if you will.

    The first response he could give would be to fight back against the questioner with as much force as was used against him.  He could get upset and use words like “obviously, you don’t understand the very basic premise of this concept if you’re going to say that, what a ridiculous thing to say”.  The audience would see his emotional response and think “wow that really got to him, he lost his composure”.  In the back of their minds they’ll also be thinking “you know if he got that upset by it, maybe the guy was at least partially right, now I’m not sure”.

    The second response he could give would be to diffuse the criticism with tacit agreement.  “You know [slight laugh], that’s a great point thank you for bringing that up.  I’ll take that under consideration.  Ok…next question over here…”  In other words: treat it as if the guy had just said “Your name is Bubba Gump!”  It’s not even worth answering.  It’s as if a child had said it.  The audience’s perception is now the complete opposite: “wow that was really embarrassing for the guy who just asked that ridiculous question, he looked like a total idiot”.

    Getting emotionally upset gives your power away to the criticizer.

    Watch The Master Of This At Work: Donald Trump

    Whether you love him or hate, the next time you see Donald Trump on some news show, watch a master of diffusing criticism at work.  One of the other guests will usually rail into him, calling him all sorts of bad things and accusing him of publicity stunts, business failures, and misogyny.  What is Trump’s response?  He will usually tacitly agree and change the subject, the whole time as cool as a cucumber.  You’ll never see him get upset.

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    Someone could say “Mr. Trump is quite possibly one of the most dishonest people that I’ve seen in recent memory, he routinely exaggerates his business dealings, and I know personally a number of people who will never deal with him again.”

    The host will then turn it back over to Trump, and ask for his response.  “That’s right Larry, I mean this is an exciting time for the New York real estate market, and it’s great to see so many new people getting involved, there is going to be a small fortune made over the next few years by smart investors.”

    The accuser is thinking “wait, what just happened?  I called him a liar and he is talking about real estate sounding so happy.  He made me look like a whiny little kid.  Now I’m upset!”  Meanwhile, the audience has all but forgotten and is focused on something else.

    When taking criticism…

    • Tacitly agree and don’t get upset (this is how you lose your power)
    • Remember that the more upset you get, the more likely they were right
    • Don’t argue back, you’re not convincing people of anything
    • Finally, accept (and actively seek out) criticism from friends and mentors with an open mind.  You’ll find out things about yourself that everyone else has known for years but was too afraid to tell you.

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    Published on May 18, 2021

    How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

    How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

    We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

    The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

    Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

    Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

    Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

    There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

    Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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    Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

    We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

    Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

    A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

    The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

    Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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    Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

    Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

    Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

    While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

    Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

    These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

    Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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    Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

    Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

    Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

    Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

    Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

    Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

    As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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    This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

    Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

    Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

    These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

    Actions Speak Louder Than Words

    Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

    Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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    Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

    More Tips Improving Listening Skills

    Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

    Reference

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