How to Respond to Criticism
When I first became a mom, one of the things that caught me a little off-guard was how often people would voice their opinions of my parenting style. The thing was – it was not just my parents, in-laws, or friends offering their two cents, but also random strangers who felt the need to chime in. While certainly there were times when the advice offered was a pearl of wisdom for me to cherish and apply, other times, well, let’s just say their comment needed to be pushed aside and forgotten.
In the beginning, what I needed to do was figure out what I needed to tune in and what I needed to let in one ear and out the other. Certainly, it was a skill that took some time for me to learn, and also one that I have not yet entirely mastered. However, I’ve found that by asking myself a few questions I can better evaluate when it is worthy to actively listen to someone’s advice or when the advice is simply unhelpful criticism. Perhaps you’ll find these tips helpful for you as well.
Ask Yourself: Are They Offering Solicited or Unsolicited Advice?
Before you prickle at some comment that seems to cut you to the quick, first pause and ask yourself this important question. Did I open this door by actually asking for the person’s opinion? Or is this truly unsolicited advice? If it is the former, while her insights might still sting you, accept the fact that you invited the person to share her thoughts with you.
Respond: Clearly Vocalize What Kind of Support You Need
I’ve been right there myself, having my feelings singed a time or two (or three or four) when I asked a person advice, and I didn’t like what I heard. Yes, perhaps the person could have delivered her opinion with a little more sugar-coating, but I shouldn’t blame the person for having an opinion when I asked them for it.
If you find yourself in that same boat, fuming over advice that you technically asked for, consider these points.
Clarify what you need from the person. For example: If you have decided to let your baby cry it out to sleep at night, instead of asking a friend what she thinks, ask specifically for her support. You might say, “I’ve decided to do this. I know you may not agree, but what I need from you is ___________ (just to listen, your encouragement, no judgment, etc).”
Make sure if you ask for advice you are ready to hear it. When you ask for advice, in a way it exposes a certain amount of vulnerability on your part. Make sure your heart and mind are in a place that can accept that the person may tell you something that you didn’t exactly want to hear.
Seek out people who are educated on the topic and can effectively share their wisdom. You will find that different family and friends are great resources for