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How to Handle Criticism from a Grounded Place

We've all experienced conflict. Maybe it was a miscommunication. Maybe it was malicious. Most often it was by mistake. So how can you handle criticism without freaking out and making it worse?

1). Know your triggers.

When someone crosses your boundaries, it can rile up your emotions causing you to feel out of control, hurt, or defensive. In simple terms, learn to acknowledge the feelings associated with when your boundaries are being crossed. 

If you’re not clear with where your boundaries are, it can be difficult to control your response at that moment. Feelings like flushing, tightness, hot temperature, stomach-turning, are indications of where your boundaries are. 

2). Process instead of act.

It’s important in these moments to remind yourself that your thoughts about their behavior are creating your discomfort, not their behavior. We know this to be true because everyone reacts differently to the same stimulation based on how they think.

Being aware of what thoughts are going through your head, in addition to acknowledging when you feel those hot, prickly feelings are the key to managing your response.

This can be tricky at the moment when someone does or says something that charges you. Understanding that you are fully in control over your thoughts helps to reconcile those feelings at the moment and brings your awareness back to what you can control.

3). Diffuse with a validation.

The easiest way to address conflict is to stay curious about their intentions, validate them, and state your boundaries clearly.

Let’s say for instance you’re working on a project with a tight deadline. You get an email from your boss that the deadline is pushed back a day, so you decide to leave work on time and finish the rest tomorrow.

On your way out a colleague runs over to you and says, “Where do you think you’re going!? We have to finish this today. Do you expect me to pick up the slack for you?”

First, defuse the situation by being curious.

“Did you to see the email about the deadline being pushed back?” Most likely, he didn’t.

Next, you want to validate.

“I understand your frustration about meeting this deadline. I can see it's stressing you out.” Allow them to respond.

Finally, validate again (if necessary) and state your boundary,

“That’s understandable you would be upset if you thought I was passing the buck. I would appreciate next time that you have all the information before you come to me with your frustrations. I don’t appreciate your approach and don’t find it constructive.”

People who are in the midst of a negative emotion generally want to feel heard. Validating the other person diffuses their reaction and brings the energy down. It also shows, even in times of miscommunication, that you have empathy. It allows you to feel calm enough to state your boundaries without exacerbating the situation.

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