Use Negative Comments & Criticism to Help You Grow Emotionally
Doesn’t it feel as though someone always has an opinion on what you are doing and how you can do it better? Sometimes, the advice can be good; other times, not so much. The question is, how do you filter the good advice from the bad advice?
In this article, we will discuss how to respond, not react, to critical or negative comments from others.
Why does criticism and negative comments hurt our feelings?
Before we dive into the article, it is important to understand why we don’t want our feelings to be hurt. This will help us understand our internal resistance and make us more receptive to our thoughts, ultimately linking them to what is happening to us in reality.
If you were raised in a dysfunctional home like myself, it is common to feel insecure about yourself, your achievements, or opinions. Consequently, your self-worth was unable to fully develop during your childhood.
Here is a list of some of the many ways your self-worth was negatively impacted by your family, friends, or community during your childhood:
- Consistently by taunted, teased or bullied
- Ignored because there was always a crisis
- Ignored because you were not thought of as the superstar or best performer in the home
- In an emotionally enmeshed situation with one or more family members
- Constantly told to ignore your feelings and fight through the pain
- Held up to near impossible standards in school or sports
The list can go on and on. The point of this section is to say that some of us do not want reminders of our past traumatic experiences. All we want is praise for our efforts and a disregard for our shortcomings.
Unfortunately, this process of sticking our heads in the sand will do little to no good to help you grow professional or personally.
As a life coach for entrepreneurs, it is my job to help you learn to heal from that past pain so that you can continue to grow in all areas of your life.
In the next section, we will talk about how to respond in emotionally mature ways to negative comments and criticism.
How you can respond maturely to negative comments and criticism
Challenge your life script
Due to your life script, you may respond to negative comment and criticism exactly the same way as your parent.
My client Angela (not real name) is a real fire cracker. As a child, her mother would say, “Angie. Don’t let anyone make a fool out of you!” And Angie took that advice completely to heart.
Whenever it appeared that someone attempted to criticize anything about Angela or the way she runs her business, she didn’t hesitate to respond with snappy or sarcastic comments. Over time, fewer people would dare to say anything that could potentially offend her.
Consequently, the number of people in Angela’s business circle slowly decreased, leaving only those who were as insecure as her. That is what happens when you blindly and unconsciously follow well-meaning but unhelpful advice that didn’t work then and isn’t working now.
Do you hear voices from your past that still haunt you today? Here are some examples of messages you may have heard in childhood that resist any form of feedback:
- They are just envious of you
- Never let them see you sweat
- They are out to get you
- Keep a stiff upper lip
- Nobody offers anything for free
- They just want to control you
- Avoid anything or anyone stressful at all cost
Being honest about these feelings will help you resist another’s ideas and give you a moment to think before you speak.
How to evaluate what people say
Just because someone has a voice to speak doesn’t mean they have thoughts you need to hear. As a leader and business owner, you need to exude confidence. And highest form of confidence is being able evaluate what you hear without feeling defensive or insecure.
In general, you want to take advice when:
- They ask clarifying questions to understand your intentions
- The negative comment or criticism is well-intended.
- You respect their values and behavior – meaning that they are not a hypocrite.
- Emotionally mature people
- People who have prioritized their own self-interest over your goals and agenda
- Liars and hypocrites
- Negative and divisive personalities
The graphic below is a flowchart that explains how to evaluate whether the advice or criticism is helpful.
Warning: Everyone is not capable of being mature at all times
Even if you are talking with someone who generally gives advice, please understand that they are humans. Just like you, they have good and bad days. In order to preserve your mental health and quality of your relationship, don’t expect people to be error-free in their communications with you.
Growing your empathic skills will help you during the moments you receive less than helpful advice from others. Even if it is not helpful, please be nice and say, “Thank you.”
Be someone who accepts comments from others
If you grew up in a negative and dysfunctional family, it is normal for you to feel suspicious of comments or advice. However, you have the choice now to filter out the good from the bad. That requires you to be receptive to all advice.
Here are some tips to help you be more receptive to comments or advice from others:
- Do not take their words as a personal assault. Even if it was poorly worded, do not believe that they are out to ‘get you’.
- Maintain a friendly body language when someone is speaking to you. If you want to show that you’re receptive to their feedback, please do the following:
- Remove distractions (including silencing your phone and facing away from your computer)
- Uncross your arms
- Face toward your speaker
- Maintain eye contact
- When appropriate, smile and nod your head
While I cannot erase any pain from the past, I can equip you with the tools to communicate better with others today. You have the ability to discern and decide how to use advice from others.
Based on the words they use and your relationship with them, you can respond appropriately to criticism and negative comments. You can communicate in a mature and healthy way. In other words, you have the power to control who impacts your mindset.
You have the ability to discern whether their advice is helpful for you. In other words, you have the power to control who impacts your mindset. Moreover, you have the ability to discern whether their advice is helpful for you.
If you need help with managing your emotional reactions, don’t hesitate to work with a professional life coach like myself.