Before I really get into the topic, I wanted to explain myself a little bit, so you don’t think that I’m that crazy lady that likes to argue for no reason. Over the past year, I have faced some very tense and difficult situations where I have had to work very hard to stay professional and neutral, when all I wanted to do was give my piece of mind in a less than friendly way. I no way to I condone rudeness and unprofessionalism, but in the privacy of your own home, sometimes opening up, yelling into a pillow, or writing down exactly what you’d like to say on a piece of paper then ripping it up after, is an excellent form of therapy that can help you get through those hard times.
With hindsight, I think I can now share with you some of my thoughts and lessons, since this topic is such a relatable one. I’m talking about how difficult it can be dealing with certain people that just don’t seem to have what it takes to have a mature and respectful sit-down chat with you when something doesn’t suit them, may it be in a professional setting or between two friends.
Often enough we have to live through some relatively awkward and slightly embarrassing moments in our lives. Like the time that I made a fool of myself in front an entire class of undergrad students when looking for the right exam room.
Other times, we have to deal with situations and people that we’d rather not. You know those situations where you really want to give the particular person a talking to but it’s not really appropriate.
I was raised to not pass judgement, or at least try and keep an open mind and try to understand other points of view. However, the older I get, the more I realize that I have little patience when it comes to someone beating around the bush when it comes to a “sensitive” matter.
There definitely is a proper way of starting and finishing those types of discussions, but don’t sugar coat it darling: I drink my scotch neat, which is exactly the same way I like getting my news.
The way I see it, sugar coating a less than positive critique leaves room for wishful thinking and the possibility of things being possibly ok. It’s like trying to break up with someone and telling them “I’m not ready to be in a relationship” instead of “I’m sorry, I just don’t feel the same connection with you, I personally would feel better just being friends”.
By telling them you’re not ready to commit (to them), it leaves them with the hopes that you’ll eventually be ready. When they realize that you’ve moved on and somehow lied to them, just wait to see that shit storm. Been there, done that and I truly regret not being upfront with that particular person.
In a more professional setting, of course receiving negative criticism isn’t the most enjoyable thing you’ll have to go through, but use that anger and frustration as positive fuel. Needless to say, spurting out exactly what you think in the heat of the moment can have potentially career damaging consequences, and most of the time, you don’t really believe what you’re saying…but they don’t know that. Oh, I’m saying most of the time, because it does happen that what you are willing to tell them in a burst of anger is completely truthful, and that you’re the only person willing to tell them. Still, now is not the time.
Take a day or two to digest, then use that pent up anger and frustration to critically analyze the situation and find the key points in your approach that need fine tuning in order to show that you do in fact listen and you do care about your presence and image.
If you’re on the giving end of the criticism, please put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re about to dish it to. Why beat around the bush and cause useless anxiety and stress, when you can just “rip off the bandage” and state the facts straight up, no embellishments and minimization of the situation. Not only will the person feel less attacked if you walk in prepared with facts and solutions to the problems, but you will be seen as someone who can be respected and who is considerate.
The amount of times I’ve had someone beat about the bush to then just tell me that I’m wrong or that I’m stupid, or that I’ve made a mistake, without offering any constructive advice, well it’s insulting.
I personally strive to be professional in all aspects of my life; however, I will most likely disagree and be perhaps a little testy if you don’t back up your assertions with solid facts and proof, because otherwise, why are you bothering? To put yourself up? To make yourself feel better after making a mistake that shouldn’t have been made in the first place if you had done your job correctly.
I have learnt, over the years, to try and stay as calm as possible, answer as politely as possible using the shortest/smallest amount of words possible as to not let anything slip, take a five minute break to cool down, then get back to a seemingly normal pace until I can go home and vent out.
Making mistakes is natural, there would be no change or evolution without mistakes. However, being petty and belittleling, you will lose respect, my own and the respect of others, regardless of which end of the stick you are on.
My key take-away points if you are on the giving end of the criticism is to be completely prepared as to why you are giving out critical remarks, have examples and facts ready, and be as neutral as possible. If you have a disagreement with a colleague or someone working for you and you feel that it is on a more personal side, try having a third party sit in on your conversation to help you keep your cool or stay on track to prevent the matters from becoming even more personal.
If you’re on the receiving end of the criticism, there isn’t really much to do if it is dished out “out of the blue”, since there is no real way to be ready for it if you’re not expecting it. Try and stay as cool as possible, and if you can, try to control your body language. If you need to take a minute to collect yourself, do it privately, even if all you want to do is bitch about your boss to your workmate. You don’t know who’s listening, and losing face at work is one of the hardest things to get over, especially when you have to go in every single day.
My absolute best way to get all of my negative feelings out is to handwrite a letter explaining why you think the criticism is unfair, using examples and facts as well, all while trying to stay as neutral as possible. Not only does it help by putting things into perspective, it also helps you evaluate the situation. Do you really need to send it? Can you use this situation to better yourself to be beyond reproach?
You might wonder why handwriting it is best. Well, you’re drastically reducing the chances of hitting send to the wrong person/your boss. Also, ripping it up after does provide lots of satisfaction