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June Converse

Thriving After Trauma - Author and Writing Coach

Criticism: How to Handle

When was the last time you were criticized? Did the answer come to you easily? We hear and absorb criticism so easily. We put the words on a continuous loop and the volume gets louder whenever we see the person who shot the arrow of criticism.

Let me give you an example – an easy example. I host the neighborhood book club. It wasn’t something I particularly wanted to do. But since I’m an author, I think some of the women thought it would be easy for me.  I enjoy it. I don’t select the books so I’m not “on the hook” if it’s awful. I rarely host at my home so I’m not “on the hook” for snacks and a clean house. I don’t always have to lead but I do have to be prepared to lead. No problem.

Last week, we all sat in a circle, six feet apart. It was hot and buggy. Thankfully, the book was good and lent itself to in-depth discussion (Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate). I started the discussion asking if anyone had adopted children in their family. We began to tell our adoption stories (I was amazed how many people were touched by adoption).

The lady next to me, leaned over and said, “It’d be nice if you didn’t waste time on this and started to talk about the book.” YIKES! Not only was the topic of children relevant, it was one of the first questions in the discussion guide.

She wasn’t done with her critique of me (not the book – me!). I don’t ask every member of the book club to host or to lead. Some people aren’t comfortable leading or hosting, and I wanted everyone to feel safe coming. This woman added, “You need to make everyone host. That’s how I run my morning group.”

She still wasn’t done. She didn’t approve of how I managed the book selection. Basically, she wanted us to read what she wanted to read.

I went home that evening vowing to stop the group. It wasn’t worth it to me. But two things happened the very next day:

First, I passed two ladies in the neighborhood on our morning walks and BOTH OF THEM said how much they enjoyed the talk the night before. A third neighbor stopped me and said, “I’m so glad I don’t have to lead. I’d be too intimidated.”

Second, as I was organizing one of the my many piles of paper, I found this list of questions to ask yourself when you are letting criticism wear you down:

Should I Consider or Ignore the Criticism?

  • How much do I care or respect the person who offered the criticism?
  • Are our values and vision similar?
  • What else might be going on here – both with me and her?
  • What are the benefits of maintaining the status quo?
  • What would be the benefits of changing?
  • Have other people given the same criticism?

And my favorite question:

  • How much does this even matter?

Is My Criticism Valuable or Self-Serving?

I said earlier that we, too, criticize others. Use this list of questions to evaluate YOUR CRITIQUE.

  • How much do I care or respect the person I am criticizing? Or, in other words, have I earned the right to offer my opinion?
  • Are our values and vision similar?
  • What else might be going on here – both with me and her?
  • What are the benefits of keeping my mouth shut versus seeking a change?
  • What would be the benefits of changing?

And again:

Does this really matter? Is it worth potentially hurting someone’s feelings? Is it worth the risk of a relationship?  Is it worth the risk of a conflict I won’t enjoy?

Rules To Live By

I have a rule -- He who complains about dinner cooks dinner next time!

If I’m not willing to walk a mile in their shoes, who am I to criticize? If I’ve been criticized by someone who has no idea what they are talking about, why should I listen?

Sounds easy, but criticism – no matter who it’s from – is hard to hear and harder to ignore.

We all need to think before we speak.

By the way, I’m still hosting the book club. Criticism be damned!

Click HERE to download my Journaling Activity that accompanies this blog.

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June Converse with purple hair
Choosing to rebuild a life after a breakdown has been a challenge. I became an author and a blogger who openly shares...
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