Byline: Ken Potts
This is the first in a 2-part series
"I don't mean to be critical, but ..."
"I'm only telling you this for your own good ..."
"Look, I hate to bring this up ..."
We all know what comes next. We're about to take it on the chin. Somebody - friend, relative, employer, maybe even a complete stranger - is going to let us know all about some mistake we've made, some fault we have or just something they don't like about us.
They may call it "constructive criticism." It usually seems like we get more "destructed" than "constructive."
There are a number of ways we learn to deal with the criticism that inevitably comes our way. Many of us just try to avoid it. We learn to detect approaching criticism and take evasive action before we get shot down. We find other things we suddenly need to do, or change the subject or just don't hear. Anything to avoid being criticized.
Some of us take another tactic. We nod our head in solemn acceptance of the criticism leveled at us and then proceed to totally ignore it. We figure that if we pretend to take the criticism seriously, things will cool off and then everything can be forgotten.
A third common tactic I call "silent suffering." We passively listen to critical comments, and probably even apologize for our failings. Deep down inside we're totally crushed. We feel unwanted, unloved and worthless. But we keep it all to ourselves. We smile weakly, hiding our tears.
Of course, a related tactic is "not so silent suffering." We are unable to hide the pain and rejection we feel at being criticized. Dejected, downcast, tearful, we are embraced by our display of emotions.
I think we're up to tactic number five. This one I call the "preemptive first strike." Early on in the conversation, seeing criticism coming, we get in the first blow by unloading a criticism or two of our own.
We may have saved an incident from weeks or months back and now pull it out as ammunition. The idea is to get our potential critic so defensive that he or she never gets a chance to criticize us.
Finally, we have to include the "counter attack" as part of our repertoire of anti-criticism defenses.
We often use this in tandem with one of the other tactics listed above. The idea is to make our critics pay such a price for criticizing us that they soon learn it just isn't worth the price.
We may refuse to speak to them for days, be super critical of their faults and shortcomings or act so miserable they can't stand to be around us.
There is not much chance for anything constructive to come out of defenses like these. And though I don't enjoy criticism any more than the next person, I do think there is a way we can deal with criticism that is more constructive than the ways I've mentioned so far. …