‘You’re hopeless!’ How would you cope if someone said that to you? Get angry, verbally or physically lash out, agree with the person, become depressed and withdrawn, feel hurt and sulk or, with poise and coolness, ask for clarification: ‘When you say “you’re hopeless”, what do you mean by that specifically?’ Why is it that criticism can bounce off you one day then apparently crush you the next? When we see people for coaching, one of the things that most of them ask us is how to handle and respond to criticism constructively (e.g. ‘When my boss starts ticking me off, instead of listening I keep thinking “Drop dead”. Why can’t I focus on what he is saying to me? There might be some truth in it’).
Being on the receiving end of criticism (even if it well-intentioned) can touch a raw nerve or leave you feeling vulnerable. As we have argued in other chapters of this book, it is not the situation itself (in this case, being criticized) that determines how you feel, but how you think about the situation or criticism. For example,
activating event—your friend says to you that you can be spiteful at times
beliefs and thoughts—‘She shouldn’t say that about me. She’s supposed to be my friend! It’s like she’s stabbed me in the back. I’ve been a good friend to her. What did I do to deserve this?’
emotional and behavioural consequences—hurt and you withdraw from your friend’s company thereby shutting down channels of communication (sulking)