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Handling Criticism: 6 Options to Get Through It

Handling Criticism: 6 Options to Get Through It

criticism

    Everyone’s a critic, right? Everyone has an opinion, everyone’s willing to tell you what you’re doing wrong, everyone’s ready to tell you how to lead your life. To be completely honest, most of us don’t want to hear it. Whether it’s coming from Dad or the boss, we’re pretty much content to just zone out and hope that we can say, “Whatever you say,” at the right point. Even when someone’s offering up constructive criticism, it can be hard to take.

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    Taking criticism is a skill — and being able to learn from harsh criticism requires a pretty extreme level of proficiency. There are a few ways to build up your tolerance for criticism, though, and to move closer to that level, even if you can’t convince your critics to make the switch to a more constructive approach.

    1. Ask for criticism in writing

    Listening to someone go on and on about what you aren’t getting right is extremely difficult. After even just a few minutes it can take the patience of a saint to refrain from telling a critic exactly where they can put their comments. But if you can ask a critic to write down his or her comments, it’s worth the effort. You’ll have a little more distance when you go over the criticism in question (and if you decide that you aren’t going to actually read those notes, you have a little more leeway to do so). You might also find that more than a few critics will decide against the effort required to write out their thoughts.

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    2. Resolve valid criticism

    Harsh criticism isn’t exactly a great way to motivate change, but in some cases the criticism does come about from a valid issue. If you find yourself on the receiving end of some unfriendly opinions, it’s worth finding out if such a concern is actually valid. Ask someone external to the situation for an opinion, run some numbers — whatever it takes to make a decision one way or the other. If you come to the conclusion that it isn’t valid, ignore the remarks and go do something happy. If it is valid, you may need to consider addressing it.

    3. Get concrete details

    One of the most frustrating types of criticism is the variety where you don’t actually get any information on what you’re supposed to change. More than a few disapproving authority figures will launch into a litany of the many things they think you’re doing wrong. If you can get them to switch to more constructive criticism, you can cut a critical conversation short with something along the lines of, “If I do this, you’ll be be happy?” Actually doing it, of course, remains up to you.

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    4. Head your critics off at the pass

    There are some people who’s function in life seems to offer criticism, deserved or not. Of the top of your head, you can probably think of a handful of such individuals that you have to deal with. For many such critics, though, you can often redirect them to other conversations: ask them about their own projects, their families or whatever they’re interested in. You’ll probably still get an earful or two, but if you can head off their criticism and bring the conversation around to something more comfortable, it will be easier to handle the remaining criticism.

    5. Recognize that some people really don’t have anything better to do

    Constructive criticism is one thing, but some people spend most of their day making harsh evaluations that aren’t exactly helpful to the recipient. It’s a fact of life, and the only way to deal with such people is generally to ignore them or deal with them. Depending on how important they are to you — ignoring a parent is rarely practical — your best option may be to just do what you can to make them happy and just wait until they leave the room to do your own things. It’s not the best of situations, but it’s an option that many people have used.

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    6. Keep your emotions out of it

    It’s easier said than done, but responding defensively or getting emotional during a critical discussion just draws it out longer. If you’re not defensive of your behavior (whether you’re right or wrong), most critics will take that as a sign that you’re at least considering their comments — making them at least a little happier about the situation. If you can manage this sort of approach, you’ll at least get out of the discussion that much faster.

    Criticism is complex: on the one hand, we want to please our supervisors, our family, our friends — all those people in a position to offer criticism. But at the same time, it’s rare that we can resolve every complaint or will want to. That means that handling critiques, rather than necessarily responding to them, is an important skill for most of us to get by.

    But criticism also an issue of personality. Some people are just better equipped emotionally, to listen to an evaluation of their performance. That means that different methods of handling criticism (or outright avoiding it) are necessary, especially when avoiding the emotional aspects of criticism just doesn’t seem possible. These approaches are just a few that I’ve used or seen over the years. If you’ve had luck with a different approach, tell us about it in the comments.

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    Last Updated on August 12, 2019

    How To Start a Conversation with Anyone

    How To Start a Conversation with Anyone

    The hardest part of socializing, for many people, is how to start a conversation. However, it is a big mistake to go about life not making the first move and waiting for someone else to do it [in conversation or anything].

    This isn’t to say you must always be the first in everything or initiate a conversation with everyone you see. What should be said, though, is once you get good at starting conversations, a lot of other things will progress in the way you want; such as networking and your love life.

    Benefits of Initiating a Conversation

    First thing is you should acknowledge why it is a good thing to be able to initiate conversations with strangers or people who you don’t know well:

    • You’re not a loner with nothing to do.
    • You look more approachable if you are comfortable approaching others.
    • Meeting new people means developing a network of friends or peers which leads to more knowledge and experiences.

    You can only learn so much alone, and I’m sure you’re aware of the benefits of learning from others. Being able to distinguish the ‘good from bad’ amongst a group of people will help in building a suitable network, or making a fun night.

    All people are good in their own way. Being able to have a good time with anybody is a worthy trait and something to discuss another time. However, if you have a specific purpose while in social situations, you may want to stick with people who are suitable.

    This means distinguishing between people who might suit you and your ‘purpose’ from those who probably won’t. This can require some people-judging, which I am generally very opposed to. However, this does make approaching people all the more easier.

    It helps to motivate the conversation if you really want to know this person. Also, you’ll find your circle of friends and peers grows to something you really like and enjoy.

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    The Rules

    I don’t have many rules in this life, for conversation or anything; but when it comes to approaching strangers, there are a few I’d like used.

    1. Be polite. Within context, don’t be a creepy, arrogant loudmouth or anything. Acknowledge that you are in the company of strangers and don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable. First impressions mean something.
    2. Keep it light. Don’t launch into a heartfelt rant or a story of tragedy. We’re out to have fun.
    3. Don’t be a prude. This just means relax. This isn’t a science and conversation isn’t a fine art. Talk to people like you’re already friends.
    4. Be honest. Be yourself. People can tell.

    Who To Talk To?

    I’m of the ilk that likes to talk to everyone and anyone. Everyone has a story and good personalities. Some are harder to get to than others, but if you’re on a people-finding excursion, like I usually am, then everyone is pretty much fair game.

    That said, if you’re out at a function and you want to build a network of people in your niche, you will want to distinguish those people from the others. Find the ‘leaders’ in a group of people or ask around for what you’re looking for.

    In a more general environment, like at a bar, you will want to do the same sort of thing. Acknowledge what you actually want and try to distinguish suitable people. Once you find someone, or a group of people, that you want to meet and talk to, hop to it.

    Think of a few things you might have in common. What did you notice about their dress sense?

    Building Confidence

    The most important part of initiating conversation is, arguably, having confidence. It should be obvious that without any amount of self-esteem you will struggle. Having confidence in yourself and who you are makes this job very easy.

    If you find yourself doubting your worth, or how interesting you are, make a few mental notes of why you are interesting and worth talking to. There is no question you are. You just have to realize that.

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    What do I do? What is interesting about it? What are my strong points and what are my weak ones? Confident people succeed because they play on their strengths.

    Across the Room Rapport

    This is rapport building without talking. It’s as simple as reciprocated eye contact and smiles etc. Acknowledging someone else’s presence before approaching them goes a long way to making introductions easier. You are instantly no longer just a random person.

    In my other article How Not To Suck At Socializing, there are things you can do to make yourself appear approachable. This doesn’t necessarily mean people are going to flock to you. You’ll still probably need to initiate conversations.

    People notice other people who are having a blast. If you’re that person, someone will acknowledge it and will make the ‘across the room rapport’ building a breeze. If you’re that person that is getting along great with their present company, others will want to talk to you. This will make your approach more comfortable for both parties.

    The Approach

    When it comes to being social, the less analytical and formulaic you are the better. Try not to map out your every move and plan too much. Although we are talking about how to initiate conversation, these are really only tips. When it comes to the approach, though, there are some things you should keep in mind.

    Different situations call for different approaches. Formal situations call for something more formal and relaxed ones should be relaxed.

    At a work function, for instance, be a little formal and introduce yourself. People will want to know who you are and what you do right away. This isn’t to say you should only talk about work, but an introduction and handshake is appropriate.

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    If you’re at a bar, then things are very different and you should be much more open to unstructured introductions. Personally, I don’t like the idea of walking directly to someone to talk to them. It’s too direct. I like the sense of randomness that comes with meeting new people.

    However, if there is rapport already established, go for it. If not, take a wander, buy a drink and be aware of where people are. If there is someone you would like to talk to, make yourself available and not sit all night etc.

    When someone is alone and looks bored, do them a favor and approach them. No matter how bad the conversation might get, they should at least appreciate the company and friendliness.

    Briefly, Approaching Groups

    When integrating with an established group conversation, there is really one thing to know. That is to establish the ‘leader’ and introduce yourself to them. I mentioned that before, but here is how and why.

    The why is the leader of a group conversation is probably the more social and outgoing. They will more readily accept your introduction and then introduce you to the rest of the group. This hierarchy in a group conversation is much more prevalent in formal situations where one person is leading the conversation.

    A group of friends out for the night is much more difficult to crack. This may even be another topic for discussion, but one thing I know that works is initiating conversation with a ‘stray’. It sounds predatorial, but it works.

    More often than not, this occurs without intention. But if you do really want to get into a group of friends, your best bet is approaching one of them while they are away from the group and being invited into the group.

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    It is possible, like everything, to approach a group outright and join them. However, this is almost an art and requires another specific post.

    Topics Of Conversation

    Other than confidence, the next thing people who have trouble initiating conversations lack is conversation! So here are a few tips to get the ball rolling:

    • Small talk sucks. It’s boring and a lot of people already begin to zone out when questions like, “What do you do?” or “What’s with this weather?” come up. Just skip it.
    • Everything is fair game. If you are in the company of someone and a thought strikes you, share it. “This drink is garbage! What are you drinking?” “Where did you get that outfit?”
    • Opinions matter. This is any easy way to hit the ground running in conversation. Everyone has one, and when you share yours, another will reveal itself. The great thing about this line of thought is that you are instantly learning about the other person and what they like, dislike etc.
    • Environment. The place you’re in is full of things to comment on. The DJ, band, fashions; start talking about what you see.
    • Current events. Unless it’s something accessible or light-hearted, forget it. Don’t launch into your opinion on the war or politics. If your town has recently hosted a festival, ask what they think about it.

    Exiting Conversation

    Although I’d like to write a full post on exiting strategies for conversations you don’t want to be in, here are some tips:

    • The first thing is don’t stay in a conversation you’re not interested in. It’ll show and will be no fun for anyone.
    • Be polite and excuse yourself. You’re probably out with friends, go back to them.  Or buy a drink. Most people will probably want to finish the conversation as much as you.

    Likewise, you could start another conversation.

    If you’d like to learn more tips about starting a conversation, this guide maybe useful for you: How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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