How to Deal With Criticism Mindfully

It’s never nice to be criticised. However, sometimes it’s a necessary part of our growth and development. As you become an adult you learn to deal with a certain amount of criticism but this tends to be only accepted from people who can give this in a certain way. Even as adults, it’s easy to take offence and fly off the handle or to wallow in self-pity once the criticism is dished out. This is where the 7 pillars of mindfulness really come in handy!

People when giving out criticism are either diplomatic, ham-fisted, rude or overly kind. It’s easy to take criticism as constructive if it’s from the diplomatic person as they know exactly how to word it to make you feel at ease and help you to see that there is no such thing as failure, only feedback. If it’s from someone who’s generally ham-fisted (or rather foot-in-mouth) or rude then it’s really, really difficult to sort through the information and figure out if there is anything to take away from it. It’s equally difficult from someone who is overly-kind as you may have a tendency to miss the point entirely.

Using the 7 pillars of mindfulness you can deal effectively with any criticism thrown at you, in a logical, calm, responsive (but not reactive) way which promotes self-growth and emotional resilience. Here’s my step-by-step guide!

  1. Listen with patience. Don’t listen to answer, or listen to defend yourself. Listen to take in all the information being given to you.
  2. Breathe through the feelings of defensiveness. You may feel it rising somewhere in your body. It may make you feel upset or angry. Breathe slowly, calmly and rhythmically. This will prevent your brain from flooding your body with cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine, giving you time and space to take in what is being said. Let go of the anger with every out breath.
  3. Don’t react. When the criticism has finished, assess whether the person is generally (if you know them well enough) diplomatic or rude. Accept that they may just lack the tools to be diplomatic.
  4. Use your beginner’s mind attitude and say; “I will have a good think about everything you’ve said and see where changes can be made” if it is appropriate to do so. You shouldn’t expect to know everything, or you will never be open to learning more.
  5. Go away and think about the key points, honestly. This really is the hardest part, since no one likes to be wrong. Our egos have a strong hold over us and they stand firm under criticism but unfortunately, this does hinder self-development. Make a list of the points raised and trust your instinct that you know the difference between a malicious attack on you and a true statement of where you can make improvements.
  6. Go easy on yourself. Remain non-judgemental, even if you’ve made mistakes. We can be our own harshest critic but we still need to remain kind enough to ourselves in order to get things done and walk that fine line between geeing ourselves on but not knocking ourselves back.
  7. Finally, Non-striving. Don’t strive to impress that one person who has criticised you. Don’t work to ‘prove them wrong’. Any changes you make should be solely on a “I know better so I will do better basis”

Despite practising all this mindfulness, criticism is still a hard pill to swallow sometimes and that’s ok. Thanks, Word Porn for another great quote!

See Acceptance again. Accept that you are feeling this and then Let it go. It’s not easy, it takes practice but there again, that is why Mindfulness is called a practice! So chin up chickens, take something away from each criticism (even if it is just to learn to ignore a particularly nasty or toxic person in your life) and become a better version of you!

If you wish to sharpen your mindfulness skills or start as a beginner, join my online mindfulness course:

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