Two of my kids default to anger with they get embarrassed. Usually, this occurs when someone criticizes them in some way. Embarrassment ensues, and the follow-up emotion is anger.
Although this is certainly not the way I want my children to behave, I can understand why they feel that way. I know when I feel criticized I can feel shame or embarrassment at the fact that I got it wrong. Then, before I know it I’m angry because I don’t want to feel this way. I want to finger point at others and all the things they didn’t do right to deflect from myself.
Not a very healthy way to cope, right? And, in a ministry environment, this can be toxic to a team. So, how do you combat this? Here are a few ideas that have helped me process criticism.
1. Listen (without interrupting). If I feel unhealthy emotions rising in me as I’m receiving criticism, I try to listen without a fast response. In attempting to listen without interrupting, I’m making the other person feel heard, and I’m giving myself enough time to process.
2. Process the criticism. Criticism received doesn’t have to merit an immediate response. One of the most helpful things you can sometimes do is to say, “Thank you for telling me that. Give me some time to think about it, and then I’ll get back with you.” You’ve given yourself time to process the criticism and your emotions without the pressure of formulating a response in the heat of the moment.
3. What can I learn? There is always some truth to a criticism. We can stick our head in the sand and ignore it, or we can ask ourselves, “Is there any truth to this criticism, and is there anything I need to do to change?”
How do you handle criticism?