Welcome to Insights and Implications!
This month’s newsletter addresses a common but unproductive dynamic between people who tend to be critical and those who tend to be sensitive to criticism. An understanding of the mind can soothe the tension and help us learn from one another.
All of us at Insight Principles
Which Camp Are You In?
The son of a good friend of mine was promoted to be a people leader. Adam sought this opportunity because he liked people and predicted he would be good at helping others succeed.
Adam inherited an under-performing team and he set out to “fix” them. He held numerous meetings and one-on-ones. He gave near constant feedback – often critical, negative feedback to certain individuals. It wasn’t long before HR started receiving complaints.
Adam was surprised when informed of the complaints. Because the team needed improvement, he assumed feedback, even if negative, would be welcome. His own biases influenced him as well. From a young age, he consistently sought out feedback. He was interested in what others thought and their advice. His two best buddies quit his high school soccer team because of the coach’s overly harsh coaching style. Adam, however, stayed on, figuring he could learn a lot from the coach if he simply ignored the yelling and put up with the bad tone.
I can relate. Both my parents were quite critical and very stingy with praise of any kind. My siblings and I would joke that our mom’s ultimate compliment was, “Well – you didn’t do too, too bad – I guess.” She always said “too, too”! Consequently, I tend to take criticism pretty well.
It’s very easy, maybe inevitable to forget that each of us sees and experiences a different world. We truly live in separate realities. What sounds like helpful advice to one person is a jarring insult to another. Some of us take comments very personally. We assign motives and intent with ease. We feel picked on and singled out.
And then there are those of us who have no awareness that we are being negative or critical. We think we have an accurate take on the situation and we feel fine sharing it with everyone without regard to their receptiveness. We are particularly clueless about the tone of our comments. In other words, we fail to notice that our feeling of bother, tension, or righteousness is permeating our every word.
To over simplify, let me make up two camps – those who are sensitive to criticism and feel hurt by it and those who think it’s their civic duty to criticize no matter what. How can these camps coexist? Better yet, how can they work together and help one another?
The answer – as we like to say in our programs – is between you and you.
All feeling is coming from your thinking and no place else. The mind works only one way, from the inside-out. Waking up to this fact allows you to settle down inside and keeps you from running an inner dialogue justifying your position.
If you tend to be the critical type, the result of this waking up is that you notice the feeling state you are in before you open your mouth or at least soon after. You remember that others hear the feeling you are coming from much louder than they hear your actual words. You wait until you are in a neutral state before you comment. You take into account the other person’s state of mind. You might ask for permission making sure the permission is freely granted and not coerced. You often decide no comment is needed.
Those of you who suffer when criticized will also look inside. You will recognize that you are in a reaction and that it’s your thinking creating the reaction, not what was said. You know that the thinking that got you into the reaction is not going to get you out of it. You wait for the thinking to pass and you settle down. Maybe you decide to ignore the comment, maybe you ask to hear more later when you are able to listen.
A useful strategy for both camps is to initiate a dialogue. Let others know how best to help you. Ask people how they prefer to get feedback. Keep the dialogue going particularly the listening part of the dialogue as you seek to understand each other’s experience.
Don’t get discouraged. You are not going to be perfect at this. As you have more insights, your habitual patterns will start to change and you will find yourself in harmony with yourself and others more of the time.