Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Coping with criticism

Critical Friends
Wherever in the world you live, there will always be someone around who feels it their duty to point out exactly what it is you did wrong.  Some people are just hyper-critical, criticising everything from the way you do your job to the shoes you wear.  They see themselves as being ‘well-meaning’ and ‘honest.’  The truth is that they have a low self-esteem and only make themselves feel better when they put someone else down.  When your relationship ends, all your critical friends will crawl out of the woodwork and be there to support you with their well-meaning comments and honesty.  Don’t let what they say get you down.  Use their criticism as a tool to develop yourself.
·         Reflect on what they said but don’t brood on the negative parts.  Be honest with yourself and look for the grains of truth and open your mind to them.  What can you change or do better next time?
·         Forget about your ego and be grateful enough that your friend cared enough about you to say what they said.  Don’t attack the messenger.  Hear them out and address any issues that might be raised.
·         Ask questions and ask for examples.  Don’t storm off and lick your wounds in private and build up resentment, rather initiate a discussion so you can clarify what they are saying in your mind.
·         Walk away if you are angry and have a tendency to over-react.  You don’t have to initiate the discussion immediately.  Thank them for their comments, and when you feel calmer think about what they said and then initiate a discussion.
·         Avoid turning yourself into a victim and taking everything to heart.  While there will probably be some truth in what they say, it might be couched in assumptions, speculations and exaggerations and their perspective of things.  Use your common sense to differentiate between what is constructive criticism and what isn’t and don’t lose your perspective.

Excerpt from How to Say No to Sex and other Survival Tips for the Suddenly Single by Cindy Vine.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Managing Conflict

Rules of Engagement
·         You need two people to have an argument.
·         Keep your pride in your pocket.
·         Cancel out your need to control the other person.
·         Minimalise the manipulation.
·         Keep the past in the old kitbag, don’t unpack it and bring up what happened before.
·         Focus only on the current issue.
·         Take time out if you need it.
·         Don’t start arguing after you’ve consumed alcohol.
·         Avoid raising your voice and shouting.
·         If you’re so angry you’re seeing red, leave the discussion for another day.
Winning isn’t everything
People express their anger in different ways and it’s good to let it out rather than smoulder silently and build up resentment.  Some couples thrive on violent arguments and the passionate making up afterwards.  However, there is a time to speak out and a time to shut up.  You have to learn how to pick your battles.  Sometimes it’s best to zip those lips and keep quiet and let the other person throw their wobbly and let off steam without you saying a word.  You don’t want to enter their angry place if getting involved will turn you into a) a scapegoat; b) a punching bag; c) the enemy; or worse still d) an accomplice. 
When someone loses their temper they stop thinking rationally and there is no point trying to reason with them as at that moment they are probably not capable of a coherent thought.  If you try and get involved in the dialogue at this time, then you will get pulled into their drama.  Seriously, you have enough drama in your life already so why do you want to be a part of someone else’s drama?  That is just asking for trouble.  There is absolutely nothing to gain from engaging with them.
Dialogue and communication are good, but only when all the parties concerned have calmed down and had a chance to reflect on what got them so fired up in the first place.  If you didn’t like the other party’s behaviour, when they have calmed down use ‘I statements.’  Example,” I feel scared when you shout at me and throw things around the house.  I would prefer it if you would lock yourself in your study until you have calmed down.”  ‘I statements’ highlight the behaviour and stops it from being a personal attack, thus avoiding instigating the flare-up of the conflict all over again.
If the cause of the conflict is just not that important to you then let it go.  Don’t fight for the sake of fighting it just causes unpleasantness.  Examine your motives.  If you are wanting to speak out and join the fray out of spite and revenge, or intentionally want to cause the other hurt, then keep your mouth shut and bite your tongue.  However, if speaking up will ease a harmful situation or be good for the other person in the long run then engaging might be for the best. 
Conflict shouldn’t be about being a winner or a loser.  You don’t have to agree with everybody all the time, but engaging in a conflict situation just sets both sides up for being losers.  There is a time to voice your opinion and have your say.  Just make sure that you pick the right time to have it.