Responding Non-Defensively to Criticism

Proper communication is an important part of everyday life and crucial to a successful work environment. This is the second article in a three-part series that offers tips to help avoid miscommunication. Results, not intentions, are the true measures of successful criticism. The person hearing the criticism can’t hear your intentions. She can hear only your words. Completing a mental checklist before offering constructive criticism can help you match your words to your intentions.

Identify your motive before you speak. Reasons for positive criticism include your commitment to and concern for another person and a sense of responsibility to do things correctly. Reasons for negative criticism include poor self-esteem — an attempt to build yourself up at someone else’s expense — or a defense or excuse for your own failures. If we listen to the criticism, however judgmental it sounds, and figure out whether we think it applies to us or not, then we don’t have to retaliate immediately and intensify the conflict.

Later, during the same conversation, or perhaps even at another time, we can ask the other person (if we are sincerely curious and not point-proving) “Do you think your sarcasm (for example) contributed in any way to how I reacted? ” Or, “Do you think you ever (for example) have double standards-or do you think you don’t? ” We can bring up related issues, if we create a transition period and deal first with the one our partner brought up.

To remain non-defensive, we must separate how we take accountability ourselves from whether or not the other person chooses to do so at any given moment. When we need to prove our partner is as “bad as we are” or worse, we are neck-deep in the muck of power struggle. In non-defensive communication, we address Ginger Hansen Page 2 the issue the other person has brought up trusting that we can bring up our own issue later. Doing so can give both partner a “hearing aid? ” Perceptions and self control are key in attempting to respond no defensively to criticism.

In accord with our text book this article suggests that we take control of yourself and thick before we speak. The 8 different types of non defensive responses that can be used independently for a single criticism are as follows: 1. Ask for specifics. 2. Guess about the specifics. 3. Paraphrase what the criticizer just stated. 4. Ask the critic what he wants. 5. Inquire about the negative impact of the behavior. 6. Ask if anything else is wrong. 7. Agree with the truth. 8. Agree with the critic’s perception.

I feel all the different studies performed on this issue are valid but further studies need to be performed suggesting methods to strengthen our struggles in the ever so difficult task of responding non defensive to criticism and not just automatically retaliating and fueling the fire of criticism. That will only invite an even more in-depth disagreement which can result in a knock down drag out fight. Just stop! Consider the alternative and look at where they are coming from, what has triggered it, and are it even valid.

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