Dealing With Your Reaction To Criticism – Response to A Reader

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Dealing With Your Reaction To Criticism – Response to A Reader

October 26, 2009 Life Skills Persuasion 4

frustration I recently got an interesting response from a subscriber to my Two Minute Tune Up on dealing with criticism.  (The Two Minute Tune Ups are part of a free 14 lesson mini seminar in persuasion, one email every two weeks start to finish, that you can subscribe to at

The Tune Up was about the option of thanking someone who is critical of you, which I offered as an alternative to defending or explaining yourself.

Hey Dr. Rick, i really like this one. It’s so simple (but difficult sometimes), and really effective. Didn’t Obama use basically this technique in his debates with Mccain? Or rather, he just kept silent after the criticism, letting it shine for all to see how immature and petty it was, then focused on speaking his own vision and beliefs about the topic.

Only one problem:  I find when I use the ‘thank you’ technique for criticism, I actually feel resentful, and it comes across sarcastic. Working on that.

If you’re saying one thing and feeling another, the experience has to be one of cognitive dissonance, which is an uncomfortable and generally unproductive place from which to engage with others.   Obviously lining up your internal state to match your words has to be part of this advice for it to be any good.  And lining yourself up is going to give you the personal power of congruence.

The problem here is responding in the heat of the moment (when just remembering you have a choice might be the best you could hope to come up with) without being internally prepared with a cooling internal response at a moment’s notice. You’ve got to change what you do with what you hear before you can change what you say into something that sounds AND feels like genuine gratitude.  That means giving yourself an attitude adjustment, even if you have to do it on the fly, in real time, with the critical person standing right in front of you leveling the negative charge.  I know of a few ways to do this, and in this post, I’m going to tell you about one of my favorites:


Imagine, if you will, that someone is criticizing you right now. What do you say to yourself?  How do you talk to yourself?  If your reaction is to put them down, or put yourself down, I’d advise you to put that reaction down, because all it serves to do is inflame you and cut you off from your internal resources.

Instead, be prepared by finding something productive to say to yourself right now, while you have the luxury of thinking about it.  Something that lifts you up, or explains the other person away, or reframes the meaning of what the other person is doing so that it actually feels kinda good that they’re doing it

Something like, “Well, if they didn’t care about me, they’d probably not be talking to me,” or “It’s not always about me,” or “If this was about them, what would they be revealing to me?” or “Cool, an opportunity to practice my communication skills!”

Feedback?  Agree with this?  Tried this?  Got some criticism for me?  I’m eager to try out my own advice.  So your comments are, as always, amost welcome.  I’ll be back next week with another post.

Be well,


4 Responses

  1. Ideas With A Kick says:

    One other thing I think may be happening is that going from a defensive reaction to a positive one (like thanking someone for their criticism) is a big leap for some people. It may help if they brake it down into smaller steps. For example, instead of going positive from the first time, jut going neutral: not saying “Thank you” but saying “Aha….” and just that.

    Insightful post,


    • I like the idea of turning slowly, Eduard, good comment, thanks so much! And I think we agree that fast response or incremental one, it’s good to turn criticism into something worthwhile!

      Best wishes,

  2. Cameron says:

    Knowing how to react and delivery the right reaction is the difference between being emotionally aware and emotionally intelligent. Understanding why and what is affecting you re: the criticism does not necessarily mean that you can put aside all emotion and deal with it logically. If you are aware of your emotional state its always good to step away from the situation and come back to it once you are emotionally intelligent again – Humans are creatures of emotion not logic – yet the more we understand why we do what we do, the better we can control it.

    Cool Blog!

  3. Thanks, Cameron, for the comment AND the compliment!

    I find it easier to put my emotional reaction aside by breathing into it, feeling what I feel until the feeling changes (and it always does. I think of emotions as fluid, one changing into another just like we witness in children.) I like the distinction of stepping away when emotionally aware, and stepping back in when emotionally intelligent!

    best wishes,

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