on receiving criticism.

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Criticism sucks. Would you agree? In my experience, most folks do. It’s not particularly fun or enjoyable. It’s perceived as negative. It makes us feel uncomfortable. It’s tough on our tender lawyer egos.

So we avoid it. Both accepting it and giving it (at least effectively).

But it’s also an incredibly effective communication and personal growth tool. You ignore this power at your own peril.

Following up on yesterday’s brief post, I’m interested in exploring criticism precisely because it is both so important and so avoided.

The power lies in our ability to transform the negative feelings criticism elicits into positive results. Perhaps not easy, but definitely not impossible.

An inspiration? This article suggests we look to the Japanese martial art Aikido, which has a single goal: defend yourself and simultaneously protect your attacker from injury. A practitioner of Aikido does something amazing when faced with an attack: he incorporates its energy and momentum and redirects it. Without hurting the attacker.

Sounds like a crazy-effective communication technique, doesn’t it? Yes!

Here’s how it works: when you’re “attacked” with criticism (from your boss, co-worker, a client, your spouse, etc.), have the presence of mind to defend yourself without harming the underlying relationship with the criticizing party. Then, look for (and at) the underlying truth in the criticism, and not just how it’s being delivered. Learn from this.

Try these four steps:

1. Determine the purpose of the criticism. If constructive, then move on to step 2. If destructive (intended solely to focus on your shortcomings and very clearly violating this rule of criticism), IGNORE.

2. Analyze the validity of the criticism. Really wrap your mind around what is being said to you. Is there anything there that’s valid and that you should adopt?

3. Define the corrective action (if needed): If purpose and validity considerations warrant, then figure out how to correct and just do it. As importantly, if you’ve concluded that no corrective action is needed, then explain this (and why) to the criticizing party.

4. Learn from the critique. Think about what you learned through the corrective action and consider this an additional tool for being a better lawyer, spouse, parent, friend. Learn from it, as it probably will apply in future situations.

[Go here for the source of these suggestions, as well as some additional tips. Such as: don’t waste time getting angry, especially if the criticism is a negative personal attack. MOVE ON.]

Giving effective criticism is as much an art as receiving it. Stay tuned for more on that topic.