Have you ever been told something that truly hurt your feelings? Have you ever been criticized and it stopped you in your progress? Have you become paralyzed from taking action because of fear of being told unpleasant things? Most everyone hates to be told negative things about themselves, yet with a fresh perspective and by adopting some empowering beliefs, you can change your life in a very positive way.
Every human being has a need to feel important and appreciated. We all love to hear words of affirmation and praise. We love to hear how good we are at something, and if things aren't perfect, we all want to hear words of encouragement. It would truly be ideal if we all gave and received positive words of encouragement and praise, yet it doesn't always happen.
When we are told words that are less than pleasant, either directly or indirectly through gossip, we have a choice to make. Most people make a very poisonous choice at this point, which is to allow themselves to feel worse and to reactive in negative and destructive ways. This is the very instance when you need to stop and see criticism in a new light. First, look at criticism simply as feedback, and the most powerful belief you can adopt is this: FEEDBACK IS A GIFT! If you truly believe that feedback is a valuable gift, then you treat it as something precious and of value. It doesn't matter if the feedback was negative or positive, it is all a gift. In fact, I'll be so bold to assert that negative feedback may be even more valuable since it may point out more quickly areas upon which you can improve.
Steven K. Scott gives a powerful metaphor for criticism. He explains that it is like being hit in the face with a bucket of water and sand. In addition to the water and sand that most people mistakenly focus on, there are also bits of gold if you know what you are looking for and you know how to find it. Scott explains that the “water" in the criticism represents items that were exaggerated, absurd, or meaningless. The “water" can be dismissed because it really doesn't mean much. The “sand" in the criticism is by far the most irritating and hurtful, and represents the specific words used, the tone of voice, the spirit of the criticism, etc. You must resist the urge to become defensive and argumentative when you feel the “sand". You must dismiss the “sand", which will give you the power to find the “gold". And finally, the “gold" in the criticism represents the truths that can be drawn from the criticism that can help you better perform in the future. These are specific items where you can take action and make a change.
In the case of criticism, your reaction is everything, and your reaction will come from what we believe and how you interpret the criticism. Ideally, no matter how harsh and negative the criticism, you should listen without judgment and be grateful for the criticism. Then when you are alone and can think about what was said, you can separate the meaningless “water" in the criticism and throw it away. You can then discard the irritating “sand", and accept that the more hurtful and venomous the criticism is, it is only a representation of the pain the other person feels inside, and it is being manifested outwardly. You can dismiss it knowing that it wasn't a personal attack (even though it may have sounded or even felt like a personal attack). Just know you need to let it go. At that moment the real valuable “gold" in the criticism will appear. The “gold" is the ideas or suggestions about how you can improve and be better. If you will accept these valuable insights with gratitude, they can change your life, especially if you'll then take them and act on them toward making a positive change in your life.
There may be a rare case once in a while when you receive criticism, and there is no “gold". It may simply be a personal attack, and nothing more. In those cases, simply acknowledge the pain the other person must be feeling, and dismiss the entire thing and move on. There is no value in holding on to it. . . let it go.
This technique of accepting criticism may seem over-simplified, yet it does not need to be any more complicated. The value from all criticism comes when we can accept all feedback and criticism as valuable gifts, take the time to sift through it to find the true value, then take action to making a change. What you will observe by implementing these habits into your life is that negative feedback will begin to be less intense and less frequent until it is gone almost entirely from your life. The positive shift will all come about because you made a decision to take all forms of feedback and make a change within yourself.
Now, go seek for the valuable gift of feedback!
Matt Willard is a Systems Engineer full-time, and works part-time on his fortune as a Premium Student/Associate of Success University (http://mattwillard.successuniversity.com ). He is also partnered with his friend as a Life Expander, dedicated to creating significance in other's lives: http://life-expanders.blogspot.com