Step 3. Don’t let in criticism.
Criticism by definition is the act of expressing disapproval and of noting the problems or faults of a person or thing. People criticize sitting in their “reality bubble”, pointing out where someone or something doesn’t fit their world view, their belief system, their taste, etc. Criticism implies that the criticizing person’s “reality bubble” is superior, the right one, the only one worth to exist. And everything else that doesn’t fit is being diminished or rejected through the criticism.
The paradoxical thing about nowadays critics is that they usually point out things that they can’t do or don’t possess themselves. Critics have most criticism reserved for themselves. For example, they criticize your presentation style but they themselves are incredibly unimpressive presenters; they criticize your direct communication style but they lack courage to openly express their point of view; they criticize your dance without knowing how to dance themselves; etc.
Constructive feedback is different. Firstly, it appreciates you as unique individual, with your own style, your own experience, your strengths, your own world view. Secondly, its focus is to support you to become a better and stronger person, by suggesting where a different approach or adjusted behavior can help you achieve better results. Constructive feedback is growth-oriented and empowering. The person who gives you constructive feedback can either help you directly, because she masters this specific approach or skill, or she will point you in the direction which will help you find mastery.
People criticize for many reasons: to reject what doesn’t fit their point of view, to diminish others, or they may simply be having a bad day… Criticism is easy, everyone can do it. On the other side, people listen to criticism because of their need for belonging. This need for belonging leads them to try to fit in by giving up their individuality. And for one and only one reason – the fear of rejection. Interestingly enough, the fear of rejection comes from the need for survival, carried in the collective unconscious from the tribal times of our ancestors. Back then the rejection by the tribe was equivalent to death. If you were judged as not worthy to be part of the tribe and were left by your own, there was 99% risk that you wouldn’t survive a day in the wild (NB: here I give credit to 1% of the high performing high potential ancestors who like Mowgli were able to win the survival game and thrive in the wild). “Rejection equals death” was true back then, but how relevant is this fear of rejection in today’s world? Today you have a very good chance to survive even if you don’t possess all the skills that Mowgli had. You wouldn’t be eaten by the predators even if your boss told you that you weren’t good enough because you missed a deadline, or that you were too soft and your presentation style was not persuasive enough, or that your communication style was too direct…
No one can reject you unless you choose to think this way, unless you choose to let others define who you are, let the opinions of others define your worth. By walking that path, your worth becomes “others-worth”, not self-worth. Your self-esteem completely dissolves in the definitions of others whom you’ve given so much power to. Your life becomes ruled from the outside in, firstly by what others think of you, and then gradually by others thinking for you. Life becomes like that of a marionette or a puppet that only comes to life if the master wishes so.
You can’t stop people from being critical but you don’t need to let their criticism in. If you don’t let it in, it won’t hurt you. If faced with criticism, here are some suggestions of how you can deal with it:
- Ask to repeat what has just been said. Critics usually withdraw.
- Ask why the person is trying to hurt your feelings. A smart person will realize that the message shall be changed.
- Ignore. With a smile or not, just ignore. Remember, the person may be having a bad day. Only let in constructive feedback that helps you grow.
- Simply thank the person for sharing his / her opinion.
Don’t let in criticism. (and why not consider to stop being a critic yourself)
“You can’t prevent the birds… from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair”. Chinese proverb.
Here is the recap of the previous steps: