None of us like to be told we’re wrong. Especially in front of a room of people. That happens more than we would like, particularly in a working environment. Wouldn’t you like a magic tool to immediately change how you feel when you have been publicly criticized?
Or how about that new podcast you and your partner just put together and despite the rave reviews you have gotten, one got through that managed to totally derail what you have been trying to accomplish?
Our initial response is one of embarrassment. Our skin begins to prickle, our face is red, we feel hot, flushed, and frankly sick to our stomach. What we do from this point forward, however, will determine the difference between being a success or not.
If criticism shuts you down, your future, frankly, is limited. It’s hard to grow a thick skin, but in order to become successful in today’s world, we need to be able to handle rejection and criticism by evaluating the truth of what is being said. Fear of criticism keeps us playing in the “little kiddie pool” rather than the Olympic-sized training pool.
When this happens we are willing to reject great success because we fear being criticized. It keeps us timid, small, hiding from the world. But in order to become a bigger presence, we have to risk some criticism and become the success we believe we are capable of being.
Trust me, once you begin to show up on the bigger world stage, it is only a matter of time before someone comes at you with criticisms both large and small. Your only choice, then, is to learn to deal with criticism. Here are some simple steps to help you figure out which types of criticism will be helpful and which ones will be harmful.
1. Separate fact from fiction. Some people have to criticize no matter what the topic. I’ve been following the blog of a man who has written about animals for over thirty years. From time to time, he posts something that the average suburban pet owner can’t stand. “How can you let an animal just die? Pay the vet for God’s sake!” At first he would ignore his critics. Finally he took a stand and doesn’t apologize for it. To him, animals on a farm are not pets. You pay a vet when it makes financial sense to do so. You let the animal die or you euthanize it when it doesn’t. At first I thought his stand was overly dramatic, until I recalled the days spent on my uncle’s farm. Of course you can’t call a vet for every little thing that goes wrong on a farm. You’d bankrupt yourself. Your fact and your fiction belong only to you. Don’t apologize for it.
2. Know your triggers. We all have them, those hair-triggers that once someone mentions one we respond in ways that are out of character and unnecessary. Do you fear that people think you brag about your abilities, so they accuse you of bragging when you do something well, or publish your next book or launch your next product? If it’s bragging, then pull back. But if it isn’t, let them criticize all they want. Just don’t listen. It belongs to the previous choice, that of separating fact from fiction.
3. Turn a critique into a positive experience. I joined a writing group where all members take turns both writing original material and submitting it to the group for critiquing. At first I was terrified of their critiques. What if I couldn’t write as well as I had thought I did? But then I realized that their eyes on my work would provide different perspectives than I had already. Soon I could hardly wait to submit a piece of work because I wanted their input. They helped me to improve my work to make it better. I turned what I perceived to be a painful experience into one that was infinitely more positive.
It doesn’t take a lot to change how you receive criticism. Not everything people tell you is true, and not everyone is out to get you. Once you figure that out, you’re well on your way to becoming the success you deserve to be.