Criticism – 10 Tips to Lessening the Sting
On a sunny summer day a few years back, my daughter was merrily mowing the lawn – her way to earn a few extra bucks. Everything was proceeding like any normal summer day when suddenly the sound of the mower ended and hysterical screaming ensued.
This was screaming like I had never heard before. It was so intense that I honestly assumed the worst – that my daughter had somehow gotten her leg mangled in the lawn mower – if that is even possible. It was heart stopping!
Not the sound a mom loves to hear!
Of course I dashed to see what was noise was about, all the while wondering if I was up to stomaching the answer!
It turns out that while mowing my daughter had disturbed a yellow jacket nest in the ground and the yellow jackets were none too happy about it! To show their displeasure, they lavished her with a couple dozen stings! Oh yes, yellow jackets are not one hit wonders – they are able to sting again and again!
That was the end of the mowing for that day! Much Benadryl and lounging on the coach followed.
A few days later, my husband decided to finish the task of mowing the lawn, only to encounter the dreaded nest himself. A dozen or more stings later and a trip to our local home improvement store to purchase a powerful yellow jacket killer and those creatures were no more!
Thankfully, I have never experienced a yellow jacket or bee sting, never mind multiple stings, but from what I have witnessed… they are extremely painful and can put you out of commission!
As a leader, you are out front – targets you might say. You have people who admire you, follow you, and are eager to learn from you. And you have those that don’t always see things your way; critics.
And criticism stings!
Unlike the yellow jackets in my yard, you can’t avoid or destroy the potential critics so criticism is inevitable! That’s why prepping for the criticism, the sting, is important!
How can you prep for the sting?
1. Be sure of your identity
No matter what anyone else thinks or feels about you, you are deeply loved by God. So loved, that Jesus left heaven to experience a torturous death. Jesus willingly was crushed by the weight of your sin in order to free you from sin. Not something you deserved – something He longed to do to break the barrier so that He could enjoy a relationship with you as His son or daughter! If you have taken the step to acknowledge your sin and accept what Jesus did on your behalf than you are a son or daughter of the KING! That’s big! That’s your identity!
2. Increase your self-awareness
Part of what throws you off when criticism comes your way are your own doubts about yourself. That’s why it is important to be honest with your-self about your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. Let’s face it – no one is great at everything!
Self- awareness doesn’t end there. Consider increasing your self-awareness by…
- Clarifying your Core Values
- Understanding your personality and the positives as well as the potential negatives that come with your unique personality (DiSC)
- Learning about your thinking preferences – not everyone processes information in the same way! (HBDI)
- Be in touch with your emotions and what your feelings are revealing about you
- Digging deep to find the real motivations behind what you do
- Notice the impact you are having on the people around you
- Slowing down – it is hard to be self-aware when you are going 100 miles per hour!
- Doing a 360 assessment
- Working with formal mentor, coach, or counselor
3. Stop trying to make everyone happy
It is not your job to make everyone happy. It is your job to lead and to do it in a way that is pleasing to God, not your critics. Stand firm on what God has directed you to do.
4. Remember: critics teach
While not so fun, your critics will teach you some valuable things! In fact, they may teach you more than those you consider friends! This might not be their intent, but you can reframe it and use it for good if you are willing to make that choice! Decide in advance to turn your wounds into wisdom.
5. Be open
Sometimes the criticism that stings the most is the criticism that is true. Ouch! Be willing to consider that the criticism is true, or that it contains an element of truth. Then be willing to learn, grow, and change!
6. Laugh at your-self
Be in the habit of laughing at your-self – not in a self-deprecating way, but in a “don’t-take-your-self-so-darn-seriously” way! Lighten up! If you are already in this mindset, when the sting comes, you will receive it differently.
Here are a few more things to keep in mind post the sting:
7. Take responsibility
Criticism is powerful! It reveals something about you, and something about the one offering the criticism. So take responsibility for your part, and pay attention to what you learn about your critic. Both parts will provide some invaluable information!
8. Be determined to grow
Don’t let criticism keep you from becoming the person you need to be in order to accomplish all that God has in mind for you. Allow it to be your catalyst for growth.
9. Keep your focus on serving
A true leader is a servant leader; someone with a heart to help others. Keep your focus on those “others” and so that you are not tempted to focus on YOU! Leadership is about making others look good, not making your-self shine.
10. Don’t give up!
Push through the pain of the sting and don’t give up! Evaluate the criticism. Make necessary adjustments. Just don’t give up!
You will know you are making progress in your ability to handle criticism when you are able to react less and take more time to respond. Sadly, there is no way to lessen the sting of cranky yellow jackets like ones my daughter encountered. However, as a leader, your perspective on criticism goes a long way towards lessening the sting!
With influence comes responsibility… and criticism! How do you handle criticism? What can you focus on today that will help you respond more effectively to criticism when it shows up?