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:

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.

Great Leadership Start with Alignment

Alignment – Out of the Auto Shop and Into the Office

Last time you got your car tuned up, the mechanic probably talked to you about alignment. If you want to get the most performance out of your car, it’s important that your tires are all moving in the same direction and working together. Turns out that what is true for cars is also true for [tag-tec]effective business communication[/tag-tec]. [tag-tec]Business relationships[/tag-tec] will be most successful when everyone is aligned and moving in the same direction toward a mutual goal.Handshake and teamwork

Alignment goes beyond just improving your [tag-tec]communication skills[/tag-tec] or trying a new listening technique. Truly [tag-tec]effective communication[/tag-tec], whether it’s for business or some other interaction where you and others are working to create the best outcome, begins with alignment.

We Are All Inter-Connected

Here’s another way to look at it: generally we go about our own business, trying to achieve our personal results. We forget how inter-connected we are with other people. Our interconnections limit how far we can get toward our own desired result. With alignment, we share the same vision with our interconnected partners. We are much more likely to reach the desired outcome. Alignment opens the way for greater success and mutual satisfaction.

Start with Personal Alignment

The first step to creating alignment with someone else, is identifying, and expressing, what you feel is most important to you about the outcome you want. Here is where you’ll need to figure out the underlying values that support the outcome you hope for. Maybe you would like people in the office to show up 15 minutes before the start of a meeting. Searching for the hidden value might make you realize that consideration is very important to you, or you maybe you highly value preparedness. Don’t forget, no matter what the desired outcome, underneath something you value is motivating you to want that outcome.

Aligning with Others

Now that you recognize your own underlying values, you need to figure out what the other person or the group values. This is a discovery process so start by expressing the values you’ve realized are critical to you in your work environment. Find out how important those things are to the other people involved. Would your partner or partners be willing to search for ways to create that kind of environment? In the process of aligning your values, you are creating a shared vision. If you state your shared vision it might be something like increasing effectiveness, or enhancing productivity or working together more harmoniously. When you have defined your shared vision, you can start to discuss strategies to achieve the desired results.

Things to Remember for the Alignment Discussion:

Try to keep the alignment conversation as action-free as possible. This is a beginning phase, so you might want to start by agreeing with the other person that you will not get bogged down with the specifics of what you want or how you’re going to get what you want.

Once your shared vision is established, you will have plenty of time to discuss how to reach your goals. Before you begin, agree that talking about the failures of the past isn’t effective during this phase. (Examining the past can be useful because it might help you to understand values that may have been lacking, but avoid assigning fault or using it to justify your skepticism.)

Here are some other valuable pieces to add to the conversation:

A commitment to stay away from negative criticism or judgments;
An openness to explore strategies that you both can agree on;
An agreement to celebrate all wins that result from this conversation.

Now that you are sharing the same vision and you’re working toward the same outcome, the big picture becomes clear. Alignment makes it easier to produces results that are enjoyable for everyone.

With a shared vision, everyone will be traveling along the road of cooperation and teamwork with far fewer potholes than you encountered before. Alignment leads to increased productivity and result in rewarding outcomes for everyone involved.

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