What’s your childhood experience of taking criticism?
Think back, do any of these sound like situations you were criticised in?
Shouted at for breaking something or making a mess
Laughed at for not ‘being cool’ or not achieving at school
Labelled on your school report as lazy or disruptive
Undermined for your ideas and dreams
These first experiences of negative feedback can really affect how we take criticism in the future.
I remember my older brother (by 5 years) being really told off several times by my Dad. That memory was enough to make me desperately want to avoid being shouted at by him and to not take criticism well all my life.
We often interpret criticism as being a rejection of us as a person rather than a criticism of a particular behaviour or action.
Or we may think we’re being personally labelled rather than being given feedback on our behaviour. For example; being criticised for not delivering on time comes over as ‘you’re not good enough and you’re disorganised’ rather than what you did was not good enough and disorganised.
How do you react to criticism?
Get angry and defensively argue back, do you feel the need to be right or to get your own back?
Think it’s unfair and that you’re always being blamed, but rather than arguing back, act as if you’ve taken it on board? Then later subtly let your anger out in little comments and barbs
Agree that you’re at fault and apologise profusely, whilst feeling you can’t help it if you’re not good enough
You may use some or all of these approaches and the key thing to notice is that in all of them the person doesn’t appear to have really listened and clarified what the criticism is really about.
4 Secrets to Taking Criticism Confidently
Listen carefully to determine whether you believe the criticism is fair and true,. Ask clarifying questions if necessary.to make your decision
Agree with the criticism, for example; “yes I did make a mess of that piece of work”. But try, to avoid over apologising or promising to radically change. Instead, think about how you could together negotiate a change. “I agree that I should have spoken up for you in that meeting, how could we ensure I feel comfortable to do it next time?”
When the criticism is untrue it becomes more tricky as there’re our memories of when we were a child and couldn’t speak up reinforcing our feelings. Plus if you’ve left criticism unchallenged in other situations then that is there too. Again the first step is to listen and clarify what is being said
If you feel unfairly criticised then it’s important to speak up rather than accept the criticism and feel resentful. You can do this with phrases like:
I really must disagree with you, that wasn’t my responsibility, so lets discuss where the problems came from
I’m really surprised you think that, can you explain how you got that impression?
Even if the criticism you receive is badly given, unjustified or given with a negative intention. You can still respond in an effective way, which allows you to speak up for yourself and maintain your relationship with the other person.
Criticism is a sensitive subject for most people and if you struggle to assert yourself when you receive it, do contact me for some support. You can book a free call at www.speakwithjo.
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When a client says “I need help with being more assertive” I’m always interested to find out about their current communication style.
Because what I’ve found is that we generally fall into one of four different communication behaviours.
I’ve given each communication style a descriptive name – which one/s do you resonate with?
She’s highly competitive and needs to prove her superiority
She over reacts verbally and possibly physically
She doesn’t realise how intimidating she is as people resent her but don’t usually speak up to her
She’s very passive and rather than speak up will opt out, avoid or run away when she’s uncomfortable
She has a victim mindset blaming others and situations rather than taking responsibility for her choices and decisions
She puts herself down and can be draining to others
She doesn’t speak up but is aggressive indirectly
She needs to control others and plays on their guilt to avoid rejection
She seems very nice but you can soon feel uncomfortable around her
She respects both herself and others
She accepts her strengths and weaknesses and takes responsibility for her actions
She’s not reliant on others approval so responds authentically
Do you recognise yourself and others in these descriptions?
To demonstrate how the different personalities might behave in a situation here’s an example:
Imagine you’ve come home late from a long day at work. Everyone’s at home, your husbands on the sofa watching tv and your kids are absorbed in various devices. The kitchen’s a mess and the tea hasn’t been started yet. How would you react?
Aggressive Amy – would blow her top shouting about how unfair it is and how lazy they are. She’d refuse to make tea and everyone would be upset and angry
Doormat Dawn – wouldn’t say anything but would mutter to herself about how they always take her for granted. Then she’d clear up and make the tea feeling like a martyr and swallowing her resentment
Manipulative Mary – also wouldn’t speak up but would show her anger indirectly through body language and slamming things. She’d clear up and make tea, either very simply or very late
Assertive Amy – would speak up calmly and firmly about how she felt and ask specifically for the help that she needed from them all
Can you see how the first three caused conflict and resentment but also didn’t actually ask for any help?
Amy’s assertive response, however, was to say how she felt, without blaming and to give specific details of what she’d like to happen.
It’s quite normal to move from one style to another in different situations. However, the Assertive Amy communication style is the most likely to avoid conflict and resentment and maintain a good relationship.
If you’d like to find out more about being assertive and communicating with confidence. Then just reply to this email or book a free Discovery Call with me at www.speakwithjo.com
Live confidently and courageously,
Background credit to Anne Dickson ‘A Woman In Her Own Right’
Having a difficult conversation is an issue that came up with a couple of my clients this week and got me thinking about how I deal with them.
Do I get angry and release my frustrations by shouting or do I say nothing and bottle my feelings up, suppressing them with resentment?
In all honesty, I probably do a bit of both and in some situations, I’m able to follow my own advice and be assertive.
I recognised that the way I react depends on who I want to have the conversation with and my thinking in that moment.
For example, I will tackle an issue with my husband or kids head on. But with people I don’t know as well I might avoid any confrontation and instead swallow down my feelings. That gives me the message that I don’t value myself enough to speak up. Then the hurt I’m feeling often comes out non-verbally in my body language.
Does this sound like you?
Whether it’s your boss and colleagues at work or a family member who’s upset you. It’s important to voice how you feel and be heard.
How do I approach having a difficult conversation?
Before you start the conversation ensure the initial wave of emotion has passed so you can have a calm and confident interaction.
Then check whether the environment is suitable for your conversation. A busy open-plan office with others earwigging may not be ideal.
Once you’re ready to speak use my 4 steps to avoid conflict and get the outcome you’d like:
Be curious and compassionate – start by asking questions to understand their perspective and any facts that might explain their comments or behaviour. Most people are only trying to do their best in any situation. So before you offload, check their view of things.
Acknowledge – listening to the other person is essential to show respect but isn’t enough to help them feel heard. You also need to acknowledge you’ve understood what they’ve said even if you don’t agree with them. For example;
I understand that you were giving me important feedback…
3. Self-Respect – this is the part where you get to talk about your feelings and to show respect for yourself by speaking up. Stick to ‘I’ statements rather than blaming the other person as they’re less confrontational. For example:
I understand that you were giving me important feedback, however I felt embarrassed that it was in front of others and upset as I didn’t have a chance to explain.
4. Options – you might not always need to include this when you’re having a difficult conversation, but if you do keep it positive and concise. For example;
I understand that you were giving me importnant feedback, however I felt embarrassed that it was in front of others and upset as I didn’t have a chance to explain. I’d appreciate it if in future we could discuss this seperately.
Do you have any difficult conversations coming up or have you avoided any recently?
If you’d like some advice, do tell me about your situation by replying to this email or booking a call with me at www.speakwithjo.com. I’d love to hear from you.
“I am”, these two very simple words have the power to impact on you and your confidence.
Whenever you use the words “I am..” or ‘I’m not…” you are labelling yourself. We love to label ourselves, others and things as it gives us clarity in a confusing world.
Be careful though, that by defining yourself with these two words you’re not limiting your reality and your potential.
For example, due to my regular accidents with cars, phones and wine glasses. I will tend to say about myself “I am clumsy”. But am I really? Or do I lack concentration in certain situations?
By labelling myself as clumsy I avoid doing certain tasks and restrict my abilities.
It can be very hard to differentiate between what you say about yourself and what is true.
To avoid this you need to be able to differentiate between conditional and unconditional labels.
These are truths about us that are unconditionally true. Such as “I am a mother” or “I am a teacher”. They define us and are helpful to use.
They can sometimes feel uncomfortable when used to describe a positive.
To some people saying “I am an entrepreneur” or “I am a writer” is difficult, as they’re not sure they’re worthy of it. But it’s important to accept and acknowledge your identity as a step to a strong self-worth.
These are labels we put on ourselves that aren’t always true, like my “I am clumsy”. They’re usually negative labels and are often driven by our insecurities. For example “I am fat” or “I am unhappy’ or “I am lazy”.
They may have some truth in them, but they are a state you’re in at a particular time rather than a definition of you.
Instead, try using “I’m feeling unhappy at the moment” or “Today I’m too lazy to do it”. It’s a small difference in words but a huge difference in the effect on your mindset.
My advice is to use unconditional “I am” more frequently and to be aware of and avoid the conditional “I am”. You’ll be surprised what a difference it can make to your confidence.
P.S. If you’d like to have a chat with me about this and other confidence issues, you can book a call at www.speakwithjo.com