Jenks Hypnosis and Training Center, LLC

805 N. Fir, Jenks, OK 74037    (918) 298-6884
Located in Jenks, America, near the heart of south Tulsa

The Art of Negative Criticism

We live in a world that overwhelms us with negativity. True, most of it starts between our own ears but sometimes it is difficult to determine whether the comments others make to us are positive compliments or actually negative barbs meant to hurt and control us. If you think there is only one form of criticism. You'd be thinking incorrectly. There are only two major categories of criticism - verbal and non verbal. But beneath that umbrella lies a plethora of types.

Take, for example, the art of non verbal criticism. It is as a very powerful form of communication - a disgusted look, a tapping of the fingers, simply walking away when you are speaking - and oh, my favorite - the eye roll. An incredible amount of information is communicated in just that one simple gesture.

These types of criticism are designed to communicate disapproval or disdain without the need of accepting the responsibility of actually criticizing you. If challenged, the "non speaker" simply denies the negative meaning. "How did I criticize you? I didn't say anything. You're overly sensitive. Are you hiding something?"

Smooth wasn't it? This type of behavior is designed to control you and keep you in your place. The criticizer has put you on the spot and you are called upon to defend yourself. These tactics leave you feeling angry, unappreciated, anxious and frustrated. It is designed to get you to do what they want you to do without actually making the request. You volunteer. You change your mind. And since they didn't make the request, they don't 'owe' you anything. After all, they didn't pressure you to do things their way.

Then there are the indirect criticisms. They are the kissin' cousins for non verbal criticism. The first is the backhanded compliment that carries a poisoned dart underneath. "You look so good in stripes! They're so slimming." Ouch! "Wow. Your project actually turned out pretty good despite everything." Was I just insulted? "You're pretty brave to do that presentation when you're so unfamiliar with the subject." OK That's it! I've just been told I'm fat, ignorant and unprepared. These statements are based on a negative assumption. Backhanded compliments are intended to tear down and hurt you while building the speaker up.

The second is the innocent remark. "Anyone who votes Democratic is an idiot." "Who in his right mind would pay that kind of money for a car? It's just meant to impress." "People who say they have depression are just plain lazy."

Once again, the barb zings home, but the speaker denies any wrong doing. "You're Democratic? Oh, silly me." "Oh, honey, I didn't know you had depression." Often, innocent remarks give the speaker the opportunity to throw a second zinger. "Your car? Well, to each his own, but there are a lot of hungry people that kind of money could have fed." First you're an idiot, then you're lazy then you are a bottom feeding, social climbing, money grubber who cares for no one but yourself. Wow. You've been busy!

The third type is hostile criticism that comes in the guise of 'feedback' and is usually encased in aggression. Unlike the first two types of criticism, the aggressive content is open and obvious. These speakers intimidate not only with their words but with their presence as well. They invade your personal space, tower over you, assume an aggressive stance, raise their voices and frequently choose inappropriate times and places to confront you (they want to be sure everyone hears your dressing down). Their remarks are directed at YOU not your behavior. "You're incompetent." They exaggerate and make absolute statements. "You never get anything right." They choose your most vulnerable spots to attack. "You are a rotten excuse for a parent. If that were my child . . ."

The last type of criticism is the direct criticism. It is not particularly aggressive but frequently too general to be useful, is inaccurate or assumes an unreasonable expectation. Although this type of criticism is less difficult to deal with, it still isn't easy.

Ok. You've been criticized. What do you do now? Well, you usually react in one of five ways. 1) Fear - a perfectly normal response though not a particularly helpful one. 2) Anger/Defense - the fight or flight secondary response to a stimulus which, by the way, will get you nowhere. 3) Counterattack - when attacked, we tend to fight back. Again, not always our wisest choice. 4) Denial - often sparking a shouting match which can escalate into full blown fights. And 5) Shame and Inadequacy - believing all that is said without question and allowing others to guide (control) because you believe you can't do it on your own. (If this is you - we need to talk!)

So what is the answer? First of all Take A Deep Breath! When we are stressed, we tend to take very shallow breaths. This only heightens our distress because our bodies aren't getting enough oxygen.

Second start asking questions. Instead of assuming you understand, ask the speaker for clarification - Be nice! "I suffer from depression. I don't understand what you meant by that." The person may choose not to respond; that is their choice. But you have made them aware that you will not respond to communication they refuse to take responsibility for.

Third validate their emotions. "I understand this mistake has upset you. What can we do to rectify it?" Some of the emotional drama may be designed to impress on you the seriousness of the situation. Once you indicate you understand, the emotions subside and constructive conversations can begin. Also, you just might find you are not the cause of their anger, just the closest person to vent on.

Fourth don't try to change their minds! Don't give excuses. Don't argue. Don't justify. You can not control what other people think, say, feel or do and you won't succeed in changing their minds. Attempting to do so is a waste of your time and energy and those are limited quantities. They have the right to their opinions - even if you think they are wrong.

Fifth BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!!!! No, you are not perfect. You were never intended to be. Yes, you will make errors. (It isn't a matter of IF but WHEN.) But just because what you did wasn't perfect doesn't mean your value, your worth, your abilities are lessened. Remember the only mistakes you make are those you refuse to learn from.

Remember, too, all success is success and every success, large or small, deserves to be celebrated. You may have missed the deadline (and your boss may be upset) but you did do the report!

Criticism is not an easy thing to deal with even when given in the most positive ways. Gird yourself with the knowledge that you always do the best you can with what you have at the moment. Sometimes that's a lot and sometimes it isn't.