Does anyone enjoy criticism? You can temper it by labeling it feedback or evaluation. Maybe like me, you can sense the critique coming. A person pulls you aside and pauses before they say, “I need to tell you something…” Or the subject of an email says it all. Our minds recount potential mistakes we made anticipating what the person has to say to us. We wait for the other shoe to drop.

Saturday, I saw the new Star Wars. The captain of the ship in a flurry of people running to their posts and anxiety yells, “Turn up the shields…” Prepare for the attack.

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Some of us know this scene all too well. When the critique drops, everything inside of us powers up our shields. Outside we try to listen and engage the conversation while on the inside we frantically try to raise our shields to protect ourselves from the oncoming attack.

After the person has shared their criticism, we want to defend and debunk their argument. Perhaps, they share the truth of the 1% that needs improvement as opposed to the 99% that worked well. It can feel as though the feedback dismisses the work put into a project.

Negative words sound louder than compliments. They confirm our fears about ourselves. Now, someone has verbalized what we may realize. They notice our mistakes and imperfections.

You and I will hear criticism at some point. It could happen today or this week. Whether a person shares valuable feedback or not, the question we have to ask ourselves is, “How can I grow from hearing this?”

Lower the shield. What if instead of preparing for an attack, we prepared to listen? We might walk into receiving feedback with a few thoughts in mind:
Take a breath and slow down.
I can give this person the benefit of the doubt of having a motivation to help me.
These words might hurt temporally, but the truth could impact me to mature.
My reaction affects the relationship with this person.
God graciously brings us the feedback we need to hear.

When we learn how to receive criticism, it teaches us how to offer criticism in a helpful way people can hear. Lowering our shields values the truth, but also recognizes the pain of negative words no matter how helpful. We can learn to challenge our assumptions and the lies in our mind. In the end, receiving criticism well has the potential to cause growth and build trust with another person.

How can you lower you shield in receiving criticism today?

Photo credit by Michael Kulesza.