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Jun 17

How to Handle Criticism Without Melting Down, Clamming Up or Flipping Out

Do You Know Any [tag-tec]Difficult People[/tag-tec]?

Is it challenging for you to stay calm and present in the face of [tag-tec]critical people[/tag-tec]–you know those people that have something to say and can’t say it without raising their voice and trying to convince you that you’ve done something wrong.

Would you like to have options other than cringing, heading for the hills, or yelling back to defend yourself? If so, there are two places to look whenever you find yourself reacting in these ways: In Here and Out There.

What’s Going on “In Here?”

The space between your ears is the first place to look whenever you start experiencing discomfort in any situation. It’s where you’ll find the beliefs that are at the root of the problems you think are happening “out there.”

Have you ever seen someone parasurfing–using a small parasail to pull themselves across the waves on their surfboard? Your thoughts are like the parasail in the wind, the wind and surf is what’s going on “out there.”Kiteboarder

If you don’t know how to control the parasail, it’s unlikely that you’ll keep your balance, let alone control where you’re headed. And balance is critical if you want to gain control of yourself and the situation when someone is flipping out.

Falling – Then Catching Yourself – Then Falling – Then. . .

Imagine standing on the surfboard, perfectly balanced, with no force being applied to you, the surfboard or the parasail. Very Zen-like, but you’re not going anywhere are you?

The fun starts when the wind catches the parasail and you feel the drag of the water under the board. In that instance you’re falling forward–and unless you regain your balance quickly, you’re headed for a wipe out.

But then the wind shifts, the waves rise and you’re starting to fall again, and then you regain your balance, and then you’re falling, and then. . .

Keeping Your Balance

To maintain your emotional balance in the face of strong criticism, two things are essential. First, you need to recognize the moment that you start feeling discomfort of any sort. Second, you need to have the skills necessary to regain your emotional balance in a split second.

The first part–recognizing the moment you start feeling discomfort–is actually harder than it may sound.

In studies to prevent police violence, when officers were questioned closely, they recognized that there were typically five verbal exchanges that preceded violence.

Yet these highly trained individuals weren’t even conscious of these exchanges until they were probed. Once they recognized this they saw that the violence may have been avoided if any one of these exchanges had been handled a little bit differently.

Like these officers, you have an emotional guidance system that is highly tuned to alert you to the first moment that things are getting out of balance. And your emotions are much like the control lines on the parasail.

It’s by learning to accurately respond to the way you feel–the lines–that you gain control of your thinking–the parasail. This is how you keep your balance and control the direction the situation is heading.

Controlling What’s Happening Out There

Unfortunately, very few of us are trained how to use our emotional guidance system, how it relates to our thinking, or how emotions and thinking control our behavior.

It seems most of us grow up believing that we’re being dragged through life–into and out of one situation after another–helpless to do anything but hang on and hope for the best.

Or even worse: we’ve been misguided about what the control lines are and how to use them to control the parasail. Instead, we’ve learned that being “emotional” is a “bad thing,” “the best defense is a good offence,” “it’s a dog-eat-dog world,” and countless other beliefs that teach us to react rather than respond.

This leads us back to the second part–having the skills you need to regain your emotional balance in a split second. This is essentially the same as learning to control the parasail in the wind. It’s learning to consciously choose the beliefs that govern your thoughts, which often requires you to un-learn prior beliefs.

This is the process of developing what we call your Values Intelligence–your ability to know and apply what you value, regardless of your circumstance.

Without these skills–like the police officers we mentioned–it is unlikely you’ll recognize when things are going wrong, or be able to respond soon enough to prevent minor upsets from escalating into serious problems.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can develop your Values Intelligence take a look at our article: http://www.newageselfhelp.com/main/settling-for-less-than-you-really-want-create-the-life-and-relationships-you-desire-now

And if your ready to do whatever it takes to stop melting down, clamming up, or flipping out, then enroll in The Art of Conscious Connection Online eCourse. It’s specifically designed to give you the In Here skills you need to start gaining more control over the direction of what’s happening Out There.

10 Responses to “How to Handle Criticism Without Melting Down, Clamming Up or Flipping Out”

  1. Jessica says:

    Great article, thank you so much for the insights here. I love the parasurfing analogy, and no, I’ve never seen anyone parasurf. Keeping my balance is sometimes challenging, and I know that just like parasurfing, I’ll have to fall many times before I can get the hang of purposeful awareness of thoughts.

  2. Beth says:

    Hi Jessica,

    Your comment is so important. It’s critical that when we are practicing anything new that we understand falling/failing is an essential part of the process to becoming competent. And a practice of– as you beautifully put it– purposeful awareness of thought is no different.

    Thank you!

  3. VIctor Sinclair says:

    Great post Beth. Just by identifying the subject and your response, you’re already on the way. If you get your button pushed easily you know there is an issue.

    Usually when there’s a melt down it is because of one of two things…. one there’s some truth to the criticism,… and two the person who is doing the criticism is really doing it to “get your goat” either in a thoughtless joking matter, or a malicious hurtful manner.

    In the first case, you have to remember a critical element of Positive Criticism which if delivered correctly will criticise the task or behaviour and not the person. Far too often people with little hr or EQ training will foolishly attack the integrity of the person which is both negative and pointless. When it comes to correctly executed critiques then you have to objectively evaluate the comments and actually entertain the notion that they may be correct (especially if you’ve heard similar comments from other people and at other times). If 3 people have told you told you you’re tardy, there is likely an issues. Even if its the first time a Positive approach to a comment like “your punctuality needs improvement is to make a log. You make think you’re not late very often, but if you actually started to log yourself, you might be astounded to find that you’re late 4 out of 5 days and sometimes by as much as 35 minutes.

    In the second instance either malicious or not, you must consider the source and have a proactive approach. Either you must try and remove yourself from the situation, or if you have no choice and its your boss doing the rude critique again you must decide on your approach based upon some serious criterion. IE; Do you really need the job, is the criticism bearable, and you actually love the rest of your job, or if it becomes over the line, is there a case for constructive dismissal or harassment in the work place and then it becomes an HR issue.

    If coping is the way you’ve decided to go, then Beth is right.. balance is a must, and mentally rehearsing the scenario will help you anticipate it, and over and above that visual rehearsals where you minimize the criticism like doing a visualisation and taking “it” (the criticism) and putting it in a box and throwing it out the window, will help dissipate the impact it will have as well.

  4. Beth Banning says:

    Dear Victor,

    Thanks so much for stopping by and voicing your opinion. We deeply respect you for standing up and expressing what you believe in. It’s why we believe there are so many wonderful teachers, because not everyone hears everything the same way.

    You said, “…the person who is doing the criticism is really doing it to “get your goat” either in a thoughtless joking matter, or a malicious hurtful manner.”

    We must respectfully disagree that the true motivation is either to “get your goat” or be malicious or hurtful. In our experience, while it may appear this way on the surface, we believe that if a person is raising their voice or attempting to make you wrong about something, what’s really going on is that person is desperately trying to meet some need or experience something that’s very important to them that is missing in the situation with you. And if we miss this and instead believe they are trying to “do something to us”, our evaluation of their motive will keep us disconnected from each other.

    Now we never suggest sticking around if you think a situation is dangerous. If it is, please run away quickly. But what we’re talking about here is how you hold the situation in your mind. At the root of it, are they really trying to get you? Or are they just trying to meet their needs in a very ineffective manner? Which of these thoughts feels better? Which thought is more likely true? And of course, it’s always very valuable-if you’re able– to use any form of criticism as an opportunity to look at yourself, your behaviors and see if there’s anything you’d like to do differently.

    Also we’re a little a little worried you misunderstood what we said in our post when you commented, “If coping is the way you’ve decided to go, then Beth is right…”

    Please accept our apology if this post seems to imply in any way that we advocate merely “coping” or “settling”. We do not! What we hoped to express is that if you do not learn how to use your emotions guidance to maintain a balanced response to your external circumstances that it will be impossible to make conscious choices about how you behave or about how to get what you want or where you want to go. What we advocate-and try to support people with–is making conscious, values-based choices about their thoughts and actions.

    We hope you’re able to hear this message in the manner it is intended–with love, a desire for clarity, and a commitment to a world that works for everyone.

    Beth and Neill

  5. Michael says:

    Thanks for the article. I found the analogy of parasurfing pretty interesting and unique. Where did you come up with it?

    I think it’s true that many of us are misguided as to how to use our emotional “guidance” systems to steer us in the proper directions. Many of us are told to follow our hearts at a very young age, but nobody ever teaches us how to know what our hearts truly want, other than the impulsive “first thing that popped into my head” kind of thing.
    .-= Michael@Balanced Living´s last blog ..Getting Your Life in Order =-.

    • Beth Banning says:

      Glad you enjoyed the article Michael… as far as where we came up with the analogy, it came from the far reaches of our windblown minds. lol

      You said: “Many of us are told to follow our hearts at a very young age, but nobody ever teaches us how to know what our hearts truly want, other than the impulsive “first thing that popped into my head” kind of thing.”

      This is so true Michael. And not only are we told to follow our hearts with no path given, but then–sadly–many of those same people end up contradicting themselves with their personal behaviors, rules, and advice. No wonder we end up confused. Luckily, this contradiction doesn’t come from a place of malice, it comes from deeply ingrained cultural patterns.

      Thanks so much for stopping by your contribution is a gift!

  6. Ashley says:

    hey, nice blog…really like it and added to bookmarks. keep up with good work

  7. Kelly Nusbaum says:

    My sister suggested I might like this blog. She was totally right, thanks!

  8. Rosanna says:

    Why do you seem to be so sure that a person who tries to “make you sound wrong” is incorrect? Some obviously charge you with stuff you don’t do, others charge you with stuff you did do but are defensive about. There isn’t one way only to look at things.

    Plus, I don’t think one can deal with anger avoidance by assuming that the critical person has a flawed understanding, or is there to get us, or doing stuff on purpose. All things might apply at different times… but the real key to handle criticism is to look at it through the “is it factual, can I use it” lens. You truly free yourself from cringing when you learn to do this!!!

  9. Beth Banning says:

    Dear Rosanna,

    Thanks for stopping by… we really appreciate your honest opinion.

    To answer your question I’ll say this,in the beginning of this post we said:

    “Is it challenging for you to stay calm and present in the face of critical people–you know those people that have something to say and can’t say it without raising their voice and trying to convince you that you’ve done something wrong.

    Would you like to have options other than cringing, heading for the hills, or yelling back to defend yourself? If so, there are two places to look whenever you find yourself reacting in these ways: In Here and Out There.”

    Your question: “Why do you seem to be so sure that a person who tries to “make you sound wrong” is incorrect?”

    This post wasn’t written to suggest that anyone was right or wrong, correct or incorrect. it was written for those people who cannot stay present in the face of someone else’s anger upset or dissatisfaction. And the guidance was to get present, balanced and then respond instead of react to the person.

    you said: “but the real key to handle criticism is to look at it through the “is it factual, can I use it” lens. You truly free yourself from cringing when you learn to do this!!!

    I appreciate what I believe you are offering here… I would probably leave out the factual part because most people are usually are stating their opinions and not the facts, but you truly do free yourself when You are able to listen Through the lens of “what might support me here” rather than the lands of,”this person’s a jerk”.

    And again, you can only do that when you are not in reaction.