Responding Nonvdefensively to Criticism

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Ginger Hansen
Interpersonal Communications
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

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the issue the other person has brought up trusting that we can bring up our own issue later. Doing so can give...
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