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7 Steps to Dealing with Criticism

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When it comes to criticism, it is surely more blessed to give than to receive. No one enjoys being criticized, and we’re bound to respond badly. Following these 7 steps will keep things from going south.

We’re all wired for defensiveness when we’re criticized. Defensiveness is normal and universal. It’s also the archenemy of intimacy and connection. Our personal power rests on our dialing it down.

Following these seven steps can turn your relationships around, but, as simple as they sound, each takes motivation, goodwill, and practice.

1. Recognize your defensiveness.

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We listen defensively when we listen for what we don’t agree with. Under fire? Catch yourself when you are focusing on the inaccuracies, distortions, and exaggerations that inevitably will be there.

2. Breathe.

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Defensiveness starts in the body. It makes us tense and on guard, unable to listen and take in new information. Take slow and deep breaths. Do what you can to calm yourself.

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3. Listen only to understand. Listen only to discover what you can agree with. Do not interrupt, argue, refute or correct facts, or bring up your own criticisms and complaints. If your points are legitimate, that’s all the more reason to save them for a different conversation, when they can be a focus of the conversation and not a defense strategy.

3. Apologize for your part.

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The ability to apologize indicates to the critical party that you’re capable of taking responsibility, not just evading it. It will also help shift the exchange out of combat into collaboration. Save your thoughts about their part until later.