I want to say that after over 40 years of doing this, I am impressed with my callers’ ability to handle criticism. There are situations where some callers can’t tolerate me pounding on their heads and they become defensive. You may not agree with everything that I say, but the ability to avoid becoming defensive is key to actually having a meaningful discussion. Here are a few ways that will help you deal with becoming defensive.
Check in with yourself. Immediately upon being criticized, a person starts to FEEL attacked. They FEEL like they’re not being respected or liked. You have to be in control of your feelings. You hear me say it all the time. “Don’t tell me your feelings.” You have to avoid reacting quickly and emotionally based on your feelings and first make a really good assessment that what you’re feeling is meaningful.
Listen. Defensiveness can actually turn people off from wanting to talk to you. If you can’t listen to anyone because you become too defensive, it can affect your work life, your friends, or your loved ones. Hear out what they have to say before your head explodes and determine if there is any truth to what they’re telling you.
Stay calm. Blowing up and immediately disagreeing with someone’s opinion will only lead to an argument. It’s important to stay calm and take away what you can from what they’re telling you. You can even just simply say, “You know, I need to think about what you’re saying.” You can reflect on it later or talk about it with people you trust.
Step away from the conversation. Sometimes people are irrational. Opinions are not facts. It might seem personal but sometimes it’s not and you may just need to calmly remove yourself from the conversation. You should only accept the criticism of someone you admire. You don’t have to agree, but you don’t have to disagree either.
If you can put these strategies into place and avoid letting yourself become defensive, you’ll be able to accept criticism and have more meaningful conversations.
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