A client just called us to order 5,000 copies of a slim book I wrote years ago. He said he wished he had called earlier, before the sides hardened among the people in his corporation. Now several people who were fighting were proving themselves right about why the others were wrong. (Especially in times of conflict, we make negative assumptions about why others do what they do.)
I squirmed as he spoke and immediately recognized how I was doing exactly that to a person near and dear to me. It is one thing to be an “expert” and write about how to resolve conflicts and quite another to practice what you preach. Have others of you also found that to be true?
So here are some points from that book that my client highlighted when he first bought it. They can help you as they are guiding me back to a more positive path:
Perhaps one of your most vulnerable moments is when someone criticizes you. If he knows you well and makes his sharp comments in front of others, he can go deeper. The clever scalpel of your words can be surgically quick and close to the bone, more damaging than the rubber mallet of a stranger’s slight death. However, as the old saying goes, “what doesn’t kill us can make us stronger.”
Here are some specific ways to stay calm under fire and even show grace under pressure that brings people closer:
Notice how people show you their “operations manual”
People are more revealing when they offer praise or criticism. Praise indicates what they like most about themselves and how often it shows what they like least or feel less competent about themselves, which means that criticism is actually a two-way mirror. How can you respond to another person’s criticism with honesty and grace, and actually gain new insights about yourself and the other person in the process?
First recognize that you are an animal under attack
Whether you’re with someone you love, hate, or just met, when you first realize you’re being criticized, you react the same way. His heart beats faster, his skin temperature drops, and he even loses peripheral vision. Because you feel under attack, your first instincts are to focus on that feeling, making it more intense. Then you feel like withdrawing or retaliating. Just remember that with any of the knee-jerk responses, you’re saying, “I don’t like your comments, so I’m going to give you more power.”
Don’t Let Someone Else Determine Your Behavior
Both fight and flight responses leave you with fewer options, not more, so try not to do either. When you focus on your feelings, you distract yourself from hearing the content of the other person’s comments, leaving you more likely to react rather than choose how you want to act. Avoid a “fight” or escalation of comments between the two of you.
Instead, imagine a triangle of three entities: the other person, you, and the subject of the criticism. Imagine the two of you looking at the criticism, the third point in the triangle, to work on the comments, instead of looking at each other, where one person has to be wrong.
Look at other people’s positive intent, especially when they seem to have none.
You are more charming when you compliment another person for taking the time to give you feedback. You take the wind out of her sails. The other person might even back down. However, our first instincts are to look for the ways we are right and the ways we are…less right. In responding to criticism, the momentum of defensive emotions grows rapidly.
Praise what you want to bloom
Why? Because we mentally focus on the smart, thoughtful, “right” things we’re doing, while obsessing over the dumb, thoughtless, and otherwise wrong things the other person is doing, leading us to take a superior position or fair, become more rigid. , and listen less as the criticism continues. As difficult as it may be for you, try to be aware of your worst side and the other person’s best side as you respond to criticism.