At some point in your life, you’ll be criticized (work in my industry and you’ll get it a lot just for doing what you do). Yeah, it stings, it hurts, and sometimes it may just ruin your day.
It doesn’t have to.
When it comes to criticism (both taking it and dishing it out), it all depends on the validity of the critique and your reaction to it.
Let’s say someone slams that brand new polka dot and cobalt blue spandex get up you’re rocking today.
First of all, take a breath. Seriously. Centering yourself will allow you to listen better.
Next, consider the source. Is is Tim Gunn or someone else who’s a respected authority? Or is it just your drunk Aunt Jane, who loves to mock anything that isn’t from the acid washed jeans and flannel shirt era?
If your critic is some person that is either a) impaired b) cruel c) doesn’t know what they are talking about or d) someone you don’t respect, dismiss it immediately. Hustle on out of there, disco lady. (For me, tone is everything – if there is a hint of disrespect, I’m already twirling away, looking for some crudités and wine, carnival music in blaring in my head.)
If your critic is a person whose opinion you do value, then listen. Is there any merit in what they are saying? Can you find a nugget of truth to work with? (Hey, if Tim Gunn ever wants to give me a fashion makeover, I’m ALL ears. Have your people contact mine, Mr. Gunn!) Use their critique as an opportunity for reflection (it doesn’t mean you have to change but if it is truthful and helpful information, don’t be so stubborn that you can’t at least consider what is being said). Whatever you do, do not get angry. Stay calm and present.
Thank your critic and go on your merry way. Trés simple.
Now, let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Let’s say you’re the one who is horrified that your Aunt Jane showed up at your elegant soiree in a tube top and cut offs. You can choose to mind your own business (my favorite path) or if you must criticize, follow this pattern (I call it the Kindness Sandwich):
Get clear on YOUR motive and what you want to accomplish. For example, if your goal is to humiliate someone and rip ‘em to shreds: not cool nor productive. If your intention is based on a sincere desire to help, then move ahead.
Start by saying something nice.
Then, give the criticism. Deliver it with as much precision, honesty, and care as you can possibly bring forward – keep your cynicism and self righteousness in check. (Dignity is the new black, yo.)
Finish off with an encouraging word. Easy, right?
Let’s practice with dear old Aunt Jane: “Aunt Jane! I am so happy you came to the party. It wouldn’t be the same without you here. I’m not sure if you remember, but this event was formal, so the tube top and hot pants are really not appropriate. Why don’t we go into my dressing room and I’ll let you borrow my slick new Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress to throw over your ensemble. It will look so much better on you than me anyways!”
Boom! See how that works? Kind yet ever so productive.
The Kindness Sandwich is especially effective for children. There is nothing more fruitless than a windbag of an adult, slamming a kid. (You may think you’re being heard, but trust me, they have tuned you out.) If you ever want a child to really listen, then make sure any criticism that you throw their way is done with respect and compassion because they deserve it as much as you do.
This method works well for online as well. The next time you have an urge to rain on someone’s blog parade with a windy critique of everything you think is wrong about their schtick, shift gears and dish out the Kindness Sandwich. It’s so delicious!
Whether you are being criticized or the one dishing it out, keep it constructive and classy.
“The motive behind criticism often determines its validity. Those who care criticize where necessary. Those who envy criticize the moment they think that they have found a weak spot.” ~ Criss Jami
© Theresa Reed | The Tarot Lady 2014