It dawned on me how difficult it can be to hear “constructive criticism”, whether it is in the work place, from a friend or a partner. How well do you respond to someone saying “well that’s not right” or “you could do it this way” or simply “start over “? even if it is embellished in the ABA sandwich approach (positive, criticism, positive).
This got me reflecting how much our defences gets in the way of actually hearing what the other person is trying to say to us. At first I thought it was the cliché of “it’s not what is said but how it is said” however I am beginning to realise this may not be true. How often do we consider ourselves to be open-minded, willing to improve, and often seek advice, yet the first person who states “well actually…” we become hot and immediately begin to defend our stand point. So often we are told be confident in our decision-making, and to stay strong in our conviction however the true challenge is to process what the individual is saying whilst not loosing your inner self. WHAT A CHALLENGE THAT IS!
We are asking our minds to conduct two processes at once. There is a danger when we are so strong with our convictions we lose the notion of personal growth and insight, however we listen to constructive criticisms and take them as gospel truths we also lose our inner self, autonomy and core beliefs in that particular situation.
So the question is does defences have a place in listening to constructive criticism? This is my personal opinion but I would say YES. The trick is to TAKE TIME. This is something that some individuals of today often find difficult to possess. How often do we react without thinking based on our defences? How often do we stop to analyse the feeling of what/why our feelings are as such? How often are we able to say “let me think about that” and then give us sometime to reflect. So I say next time you feel that hot sensation, or that feeling of not feeling good enough when being criticised try stopping, thinking, analysing before reacting and see what the outcome may be.
Reassurance, Acceptance, A pat on the back, Positive re-enforcement –
These are things that are taught in parenting classes to ensure the child is raised in a well-rounded environment and to promote the emotional stability of the child. Children seek praises to enhance their self-esteem. Parents are taught not to always focus on the negative attributes/behaviours but also to focus on the positive behaviours. When a positive behaviour is enacted the parent is encouraged to reward the behaviour in order for the behaviour to continue. This is a well-known behavioural theory described as operant conditioning.
As time develops we are therefore conditioned to seek out these rewards for positive behaviours. From parent-child relationship, to teacher-child relationship, to adult – boss relationship. By seeking positive re-enforcement it can be inferred there is a process of validation within our psyche. By hearing “well done” “good job” for doing something well makes us feel warm inside. It lets us know we are on the right path.
Some may say there is nothing wrong with this. The ability to modify/manipulate behaviour can be of benefit. If praises, reassurance and positive re-enforcement helps raise self-esteem that is a good thing. For the record I do not disagree with this, however with reflection the CONSTANT NEED for reassurance, praise and positive re-enforcement from external sources can be very damaging to a person’s self-worth.
At which point as adults do we learn that we can validate ourselves? Define our own self-worth without the need of others? Have you realised the different types of relationships mentioned previously are all those where one is in perceived position of authority. Authority can be associated with power. When do we as individuals begin to take that “power” back.
This leads to the notion of self-love. The ability to have the confidence within ones self to know that we are good enough. The ability to assess the situation on our own merits and not someone else’s. The next question is how do we validate and gain the confidence? Positive affirmations with convictions can be a start. The same way positive praise from external environment can be soothing. Internal praise can work just as well.
The concept of believing in own capabilities can be a foreign phenomenon, however with time it can and does develop.