I’ve got more bristles than a hedgehog and I’m the first to admit it. Someone’s only got to suggest something in a critical way and those varmints are up and at ‘em, standing to attention and setting off the alarm clocks of all my sleeping inner imps, whether it’s Doubt, Self-Defence, Self-Confidence…
It’s truly amazing that just one seemingly innocuous comment can have my inner imps setting up a protest camp, fashioning elaborate banners, planning marches and strikes and generally setting off a barrage of unwanted physical and emotional feelings – usually they’re more than happy to just sit around with their hands in their pants!
And the other thing is, all this happens in an instant – a-mazing!
More often than not, while Self-Esteem is cowering sulkily in some far-flung corner, my rash inner imp Self-Defence (convinced she’s some indestructible bad-ass) succumbs to an uncontrollable urge to defend “team me” and embarks on some ludicrous plan highly likely to end in something only marginally short of my total humiliation – with Indignation and Reasoning aiding and abetting by going firmly on the attack.
Amongst all this negative emotion, you might be surprised to hear that there is a good side. Yes, there is – honestly!
All the horrible feelings aside, being criticised provides us with an unbeatable opportunity to learn to control our inner imps and polish some of our life skills – if we choose to let it.
One – Try and Control any Immediate Outbursts
Those bristles are going to be flying out like poison darts and your inner “team you” imps are all going to be clamouring over one another to get to the microphone that’s connected to your mouth.
Smack those mother-humpers down at all costs!
Flick the “mute” button on that microphone.
Take a deep breath and let them exhaust their initial flood of feelings without a sound coming from your mouth. If you need to respond in some way, go for a:
“WOW! I need to think about that.” or “I’m not sure what to say”.
If you’re really overwhelmed by anger or feel mega hurt, be honest:
“Your comment’s made me feel bad. Can I take a minute and get back to you?”
The goal is to try “not” to respond while you’re under the influence of your inner imps and emotions. It’ll take practice and skill, but will go a long way towards helping you to avoid doing or saying something that you could well regret later.
Doing this is a great work out for that inner imp Self-Control which, if you can get a few more muscles on him, could come to your aid in many other areas of your life.
Two – Consider the Origins of the Criticism
Once your inner imps have got all their initial indignation and reactions under control, Reasoning is more likely to be able to elbow his way to the front of the queue in your head so that you’ll be able to take a more “objective” look at things.
Who has criticised you?
Do you value their opinions/experience?
Did they present the criticism in a constructive way with an appreciation of your feelings?
Can what was said be taken in different ways, e.g. positively?
If you can credit the criticism with some rational legitimacy and respect you can make a better judgement as to whether to give it further consideration and take action or dismiss it with the attention you feel it deserves.
Doing this will help you hone the physique of “team you’s” inner imp Logic. Logic comes in really handy when you need to think things through and make decisions independently of emotion and is key in many areas of life such as exercising good judgement or being tolerant of others.
Three – Be Honest With Yourself
This is the tough bit, but it’s also the part that will offer you the greatest opportunity for self-improvement.
“Is there any truth in what’s been said?”
Have you been criticised about the same thing or something similar before?
Did it hurt or upset you because it resonates with something you suspect is true?
Sometimes our inner imp Honesty shies away and refuses to acknowledge the truth in criticism – something that Fear and Doubt are always happy to capitalise on for their own nefarious ends.
We often know deep inside that there’s an element of truth in what’s been said but don’t want to admit it. Get real and force Honesty to be honest.
If Honesty really isn’t prepared to step up and take the bat or the criticism simply doesn’t feel just, it sometimes helps to talk things through with someone whose opinion you value. Do they agree with the criticism or feel there’s truth it in? If you have someone you’re close to, be it a friend or family member, get the low-down from them – if you can be sure they’ve the balls to be honest with you!
From the other side, it’s also important to remember that criticism is often twisted by the emotions of the criticiser’s own inner imps and Honesty may actually be right not to shove his/her hand in the air and accept the criticism, so this “second” opinion often provides valuable insight.
Four – Come to a Conclusion
Once you’ve taken the time to consider the original criticism objectively and listened to any subsequent second opinions you’ll arrive at the lesson to learn.
What do you need to do?
Can you continue as is or do you need to change a habit, pep up a life skill or offer an apology?
Five – The Final Act
If you feel the criticism was just, the final act will be to resolve the criticism and “repair” any damage to the relationship.
If it was unjust, you need to then look at your relationship with the criticiser.
Is the relationship important enough to you to want to do some damage control or would the best for everyone concerned be to simply walk away and let it go?
Walking away is sometimes hard, but it shouldn’t be seen as a failure or cowardice – it’s often only logical Mr Spock!
Having the ability to accept and deal with criticism is an everyday life skill that many people sadly don’t have. Learning how to gag and bind your inner imps initial reactions and then consider the criticism logically takes effort but makes for a more comfortable life for you and those you come into contact with.