People criticized me. So I changed. But people still criticized me. So I changed more. And still people criticized me. Then finally I realized it’s what they will do, no matter what. And I changed once more, by no longer listening to those people.
Does that mean I have stopped listening to people’s advice? Of course not, I welcome it, I’m grateful for it. But there is a not-so-fine-line between those who destructively criticize, and those offering “constructive criticism” — that is, the advice that can be the most important, even and perhaps especially the tough love variety.
The difference resides in the intention of the person delivering the criticism:
- Are they someone who genuinely cares about you, and/or about the results of your actions, first of all?
- Are they saying whatever they are saying because they genuinely care about your improvement, or the improvement of whatever it is your actions are impacting, even if their words may not be the best they could have chosen?
- Are they truly speaking from an emotional place of insecurity, jealousy, guilt, anger, or hate?
Responding Versus Reacting
If you and I were purely rational beings, it would be pretty easy to routinely recognize others’ intentions, and therefore the difference between constructive versus destructive criticism. Be we too have these little things called “emotions” that can sometimes get in our way… in a big way.
So one of the most beneficial things you can learn is to “scan yourself” to recognize your own emotions at any given time. (This is a habit that serves you well in many respects of life, of course; people can get better and better at it, but no one ever perfects it.)
When it comes to determining the difference between someone giving constructive versus destructive criticism, assess if you have any emotional disturbances or walls up inside you. For example, are you feeling insecure in the face of the particular constructive criticism you are receiving, taking things personally when they are not so, and misinterpreting it as destructive?
Do you have your own internal anger or sadness about something in relation to the person who is delivering what they mean as good advice, which therefore may be tainting how you hear it? Are you simply crabby?
It is not always easy to scan and analyze your own emotions in this manner, but then little that is worth doing is ever easy. The more you can recognize your own emotions so you can respond versus react, the more strife you will avoid and growth you will achieve.
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond”
Recognizing the Destructive
If you do have your own emotions in check, then, it is typically not hard to recognize those who are destructively criticizing you. If their criticism is full of downright insults — calling you stupid and the like, implying or stating outright you’ll never amount to much, etc. — that is clearly destructive.
But also watch their facial and bodily expressions, and listen to the tone of their voices. Instead of the look and sound of care, concern, or worry, destructive criticism usually looks and feels like an attack.
Sometimes you will even sense a sort of sick delight in the person destructively criticizing you, because these “broken” people draw a temporary and false sense of strength and joy from tearing you and likely others down.
The Only Thing to Do
When you are certain a person is in the business of destructively criticizing you, the best thing or the ONLY thing you can do is let them go. Shut them off. Detach. Stop listening. Easier said than done, I know, but amongst the most important things you’ll ever do in your life. If this person is someone you can physically part from in your life, do so.
What If It’s Someone Close to You?
However, often the biggest challenge comes when someone you care about, and who “should” care about you, such as a parent, sibling, spouse, or even someone who once did care about you like an ex or old friend — turns to destructive criticism.
This can feel especially disheartening and like it just doesn’t add up. Because this is a person we ought to be able trust, and so it is extremely easy to take their criticism to heart, even if we rationally know their criticism is not well-intentioned and frankly, full of crap.
But in these cases too, difficult as it may be, you must detach. You may not be able to physically leave in some cases, but you can increasingly teach yourself to mentally and emotionally depart and NOT take any of their destructive words to heart. Yes, it takes work to do this, but believe me, the work is worth it.
“Your circle of influence dictates your path” – Oprah
By the way, if you cannot, or choose not to, physically depart from this person, do remember you cannot fix anyone else, no matter how much you love them and wish you could. You can attempt your own constructive advice to try to help them, but be prepared for extensive resistance, to say the least. The good news is that most “lost souls” do find their way back, starting with one trigger or another; the bad news is that not all do.
Only you, with your own set of values, know who it is you won’t physically leave despite their destructive criticism and negativity, or how far your lines are drawn before you must physically leave them. This is something you should assess and understand for yourself now, hard as it may be, if you don’t yet know.
No matter what, you absolutely CAN choose who you will listen to, whose words you will let inside your head, and whose you will keep out. Even if they’re in the next office over, or in the bed right next to you.
My strong constructive advice is to choose carefully, choose wisely, and for any and all who would destructively criticize you, remember their daggers are misguided. Those who destructively criticize others have one form or another of self-loathing, and the daggers they throw at others are really meant for themselves. Do the work to ban their misguided daggers from piercing your heart.
How are you dealing with criticism? Comment below!
Image courtesy of Twenty20.com
6 Reasons Why You Should Never Glorify Failure After You’ve Failed
Many people are ashamed of failure. If they so much as smell a whiff of failure, they quit instantly because the public notices it quickly. But you shouldn’t be ashamed of failure. A lot of people have failed. I’ve failed over and over again in my career, business, relationships and more. Yet, I keep trying because failure isn’t the final verdict. (more…)
How to Move Forward When All Seems Lost
A few weeks ago, the relationship of my venture with a long-term client turned rocky. Losing them would mean a huge loss for my business, but it appeared like that’s where we were headed. My mind raced with unpleasant thoughts. Maybe the client had figured out that I couldn’t lead my team well. Maybe I was not good enough to be an entrepreneur. Maybe I was not good enough to do anything.
Why was the world so unfair?! Within moments, my anxiety had shot through the roof and my heart was racing faster than an F1 car engine. But I know I’m not the only one who feels like this.
Why Problems Overwhelm Us
As human beings, we’re good at solving problems, so they shouldn’t stress us out. Yet, they do just that. Why?
Consider some of these situations in life. When a relationship is headed for troubled waters, we wonder whether our partner loves us anymore. Our mind unearths memories of when we got dumped or rejected. We blame ourselves for falling for the wrong people and tell ourselves that we’re not worth receiving love.
How do you think the relationship will steer after that? If we cannot stick to a diet, we think of other times when we gave up. We remember what people said about things that we couldn’t do and ask ourselves, “were they right?” We tell ourselves that we don’t have what it takes to succeed at anything.
Do you think we’ll find the grit to stick to the diet after this? So here we are… thinking we’re not good enough to be entrepreneurs, to be loved, to get promoted, or to achieve our personal goals. Notice a pattern yet? We move in the wrong direction. The destination is to achieve the goal. And unless we stop giving into emotions and start addressing situations, we’ll keep failing to get there.
Negative emotions (and even extremely positive ones) blur our vision. The more we focus on them, the deeper we go into how we feel. We either get angry because things aren’t the way we want them to be, or get paralyzed by the fear of the worst possible outcome. This means we pull away from the one thing we must do to set things right — take action.
“If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there and worrying. It’s the worry that gets you, not the loss of sleep.” – Dale Carnegie
How to Take Action in the Face of Problems
Most human beings are good at solving problems. Where we get blindsided is at diagnosing the right problem. To diagnose the right problem, we must address the situation instead of emotions. We must see things for what they are, collect facts on what we’re worrying about, and then ask ourselves, “What should I do next?”
In his book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”, Dale Carnegie wrote: “Neither you nor I nor Einstein nor the Supreme Court of the United States is brilliant enough to reach an intelligent decision on any problem without first getting the facts.”
To address the tricky situation with my client, I took the following three steps:
1. First, I acknowledged the feeling
Solving a problem doesn’t mean ignoring emotions. It’s important to acknowledge how you feel because it reveals the path, but domesticating your emotions is more important. I acknowledged how I felt by saying, “I feel anxious because the client might not want to work with us anymore and this will be a financial loss for us.”
Note how I said “I feel anxious” and not “I’m a loser.” If I had given into negative chatter, I wouldn’t have uncovered the direction to move in (the part after “because”). This is why domesticating emotions is crucial.
2. Next, I prepared for the worst
We often run from our worst fears rather than facing them despite knowing that the worst outcome rarely comes true. The result is that we stay stuck in fear instead of pushing beyond it. And we never discover what we’re really capable of, which sucks.
In my case, the worst meant losing the client. It would hurt but it was the truth. However, we could get more clients. Plus we already had other clients who helped us pay the bills. In other words, I wouldn’t have to live on the street.
The moment I accepted this, a huge weight got lifted off my chest. This prepared me for the third and final step.
“Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.” – Zig Ziglar
3. Lastly, I examined the situation
Examining a situation means setting aside your emotional baggage and focusing on facts. When you trust that you’ll be okay, you become better at diagnosing the real problem. Once I felt lighter, I could see things clearly.
I used the 5 Whys Technique (asking “why” five times) to figure out the real reason for the client’s dissatisfaction. Then I collected data on the issue and on what we had previously delivered.
Finally, I reached out to the CEO of the client and held a detailed and constructive discussion based on my findings. Within four days, the CEO and I were back to the way things were before.
The best way to prepare for tomorrow is to give today your best. I’m not sure whether the issue with the client got resolved for good or whether the client won’t pack up and leave one day. However, I am sure that I’m prepared to handle such cases better today than I was yesterday.
Control your emotions instead of letting them run amok. Accept things for what they are instead of what you want them to be. Be realistic instead of delusional. Address the situation instead of succumbing to emotions.
Don’t preempt what lies ten miles ahead and get paralyzed by fear. Address what lies clearly in front of you and keep moving. One day you’ll be surprised about how close to your destination you are.
How do you move forward when all hope seems to be lost? Share your advice below!
8 Effective Tips to Improve Your Emotional Wellbeing
You know what they say, “Health Is Wealth”. But, more often than not, we only mean it in the context of physical health. There’s no question that being fit is the world’s greatest treasure. Unfortunately, not a lot of us take time out to look after our emotional health and wellbeing.
Let’s not forget – it’s ‘Mind Over Matter’. So, if you are able to take control of your emotions, thoughts, how you feel through the day and how you respond to myriad situations; there’s nothing quite like it. When you become the master of your emotions; health, prosperity, and basically all good things are bound to follow you.
With that said, here are 8 surefire ways that will improve your emotional wellbeing:
1. Practice Mindfulness
Half the time, we don’t even know what we’re thinking or how we’re feeling. That’s because we let our minds operate on autopilot. It’s time to take control of your mind. Be aware of what and how you feel throughout the day. The upside to this practice is that you can detect negative emotions right on the onset and quickly change them and their corresponding feeling.
Feelings of anger, jealousy, hatred; they are not good for the mind, soul, or the body. Paying close attention to the spectrum of emotions you experience throughout the day, will help you detect the negative ones and kick them away before they fester deep enough to take away your happiness and emotional health.
2. Stay Physically Active
As you engage in physical activities, your brain produces a whole bunch of feel-good hormones such as endorphins and dopamine. These hormones are what causes the ‘elated’ or ‘euphoric’ feeling. Being physically active uplifts your mood and your outlook towards life. It readies you to take the challenges more head-on instead of becoming overwhelmed by the littlest of inconvenience.
You are better able to analyze tough situations and take a more proactive rather than a reactive approach. It’s no question physical health is in direct proportion with emotional health. A healthy mind resides in a healthy body and vice versa.
“Caring for the mind is as important and crucial as caring for the body. In fact, one cannot be healthy without the other.” – Sid Garza-Hillman
3. Get Sufficient Sleep
Ever noticed how you feel depressed and cranky, and just out of focus the day you fail to get a good night’s sleep? Well, if you fail to get sufficient sleep for a couple of days, you are bound to feel more depressed, cranky and eventually more prone to a host of negative emotions. Research shows that sleep deprivation sends amygdala – our brain’s emotional response center into overdrive.
Amygdala controls our immediate emotional responses. When it becomes overactive, we become more reactive rather than active. We become more irritable, angry and anxious. A good night’s sleep is vital to improving your emotional wellbeing.
4. Develop a New Hobby
Learn to swim. Try arts and crafts. How about painting? Swimming is a ‘happy’ activity. You get to make new friends and stay fit. Arts and crafts, as we all know, tends to have a relaxing effect on the mind and the nerves.
Just the process of creating something from scratch makes you confident and gets those creative juices flowing. Similarly, painting helps you express yourself. All these factors together create a ‘happy you’. The one who likes to engage in new things instead of resisting change or difficult situations.
5. Eat Healthy
Ever heard of the phrase, “You are what you eat”? Well, it’s true to the last syllable. When you eat foods rich in salt, sodium, fat – you are bound to feel lethargic. It takes longer for the body to digest such foods. That means the body is forced to deprive organs of blood and use it for the digestion purpose.
Result? You become lazy, moody, not ready to take any responsibility which leads to feeling cranky and irritable. On the other hand, eating fibrous vegetables, fruits, salads, and complex sugars keeps you upbeat and healthy.
6. Laugh Your Heart Out
Laughter is the best medicine. That is why they have a dedicated ‘laughter session’ in yoga studios. You don’t even have to mean it. The simple act of spreading your cheeks and pretending to laugh sends a signal to your body that you are happy.
And what happens when you are happy? Your brain releases happy hormones like dopamine, serotonin and what not. In fact, many studies have gone so far as to stipulate that laughter alone is capable of treating all kinds of physical ailments. Why should emotional ailments be any different?
7. Try Relaxation Techniques
‘’Visualization technique’’ where you imagine yourself in a happy place is a surefire way to calm your nerves if you find yourself distressed. You may also try praying to elate yourself. Praying is good for the mind and the soul.
Controlled breathing or ‘biofeedback technique’ are some other relaxation techniques that can tame how you feel and even your bodily functions. Try surrounding yourself with aromatherapy or scented candles because the smell is a big factor in governing how we feel.
“Positive emotional energy is the key to health, happiness and wellbeing. The more positive you are, the better your life will be in every area.” – Brian Tracy
8. Count Your Blessings
We all have so much to be thankful for. It could be a friend who stands by you or a happy family. Good health. Financial freedom. Make a list of all the things that you feel grateful for in your life. If it’s a person, be sure to communicate your feelings and express your gratitude.
You will feel so much happier. Happiness is the diet of a healthy mind and an intelligent emotional response mechanism. You could also try writing a poem or simply expressing your gratitude through the power of prayers.
There are so many ways to become emotionally intelligent and not one of them requires any investment or special skills. Practically anyone and everyone can do it. All you need is the will and the desire.
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