Criticism is one of the hardest things to hear. However, criticism doesn't have to be all negative. If you able to hear it with mindfulness, criticism can be a chance to see yourself and your ‘criticizer’ on a deeper level.
Criticism >= Stomach Punch?
Recently I was talking with a senior member of my spiritual community. While we were talking my business, the Mindful Fitness Movement, came up.
He expressed concern about how I talked about my time at the monastery. He suggested it was inappropriate to list the 2 years I spent at the monastery on my business website.
The next thing I knew I found myself getting defensive and reactive. What I heard him saying was, “I had no business trying to help anyone at all.”
I was able to explain why I listed the monastery on my site and leave the conversation skillfully. Still, I left feeling very agitated.
3 Windows Of Criticism
Later after I calmed down I was able to look at what I call the 3 windows of criticism.
1. Their Truth – This is your best guess at what the criticizer is expressing. My best guess was, “Training at the monastery is a sacred tradition. I want to honor that tradition.”
2. My Fear – This is the fear that the criticism triggered.
My fear was, “I'm afraid my spiritual community doesn't support my work. I’m afraid the person I respect thinks I can’t help people. What if he’s right?”
3. The Value – This can be a shared value or two separate values that each of your is trying to support. The value I saw was, “We both want to honor and support a tradition that helped us find peace and meaning.”
It is hard to hear a person’s values through their criticism. But it’s important to try and see what they care about. Even if you don’t support how they are trying to meet those values.
Think of an occurrence in your recent past where you felt criticized. Then follow the steps below.
1. Write down what you remember the person saying. (Try not to interpret or write assumptions)
2.Write down what your reaction was in words and/or thought.
3. Write down the feelings that came up for you when they said it.
4. Write down Their Truth, Your Fear, and The Values you were both holding.
Once you have gone through these steps it’s up to you to decide which if any action needs to be taken. Often when we receive criticism our willingness to hear and understand the person is enough to make the difference.
Remember that it’s not about blame. It’s about finding a way forward that honors both of you.