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Criticism continued (4)

•Don’t forget to acknowledge yourself and others for being receptive to criticism. Since criticism is difficult for most of us, learning to take criticism requires changing a number of old habits. Every time you are less defensive or reactive when you are criticized, give yourself a pat on the back. Acknowledge your spouse, children, or co-workers when they respond well to criticism. None of us changes overnight, yet we feel encouraged when someone notices our signs of progress.


•When it comes to criticism, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Seek out feedback and further clarification before miscommunication turns into a crisis. Instead of relying on vague assumptions with your love partner, children or co-workers, or guessing at what they may need, ask for clarification and suggestions.


•You have tremendous influence over the type of criticism you receive. When you become supportive and skillful at criticizing constructively, your loved ones and co-workers are sure to notice. Nothing begets appreciation like appreciation. Even when you are under fire, common courtesy can often turn the situation around. Rather than responding angrily, genuine friendliness, concern and compassion can be disarming. How you treat others will also help them see how you want to be treated. If your criticism of them is brief, specific and loving, they will gradually (not overnight) learn to return the favor.


•Learning to give constructive criticism must also paradoxically include being less critical. There is an art to learning to accept yourself and others exactly the way they are without expecting miraculous changes. The less rejecting and intolerant you are, the better others can hear and use your criticism. Instead of always scolding and reprimanding others, it’s okay to let some things slide and to focus only on those issues that really matter. When loved ones and co-workers know you appreciate them and judge them fairly, they are more likely to value your suggestions.


•“Five specific acknowledgments a day keeps the critic away.” Especially in our intimate relationships, we need to feel loved and appreciated (research findings suggest that, for young children, it takes 100 positive or “constructive” comments to undo one “destructively” critical comment). For those who have fallen into the trap of criticizing too much or taking each other for granted, a good exercise is for each of the parties to list on a piece of paper five specific things you like about the other. Items must be positive and specific. Make an effort to take time each day to find the opportunity to give specific positive and loving feedback, no matter how long you’ve lived or worked together.


•Super-critical people may be crying out for love and appreciation. Instead of criticizing them for criticizing you, find out what’s really going on with that person, and try empathizing with their feelings. A smile or a kind word is often a potent response or reply.


•Remember you are bigger than the event or trait for which you are being criticized. A criticism directed at you is a statement about a behavior and not about your entire worth. In spite of what you may have been told, or perceived as a child, you deserve to be loved even when you make mistakes or have difficulties. Seeing criticism as helpful feedback allows you to use it for growth rather than as a devastating exposé of your shortcomings.

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