Monday, August 30, 2010

How to stop criticism in its tracks

Are you constantly being criticized by people? Perhaps bosses, or spouses, or parents, or friends? And do you feel worn down by it?

Here is a neat little tool I recently developed for my therapy clients. It is a worksheet where you plug in the right words, and then watch the other person's criticism go down the drain. It is based on very powerful, evidence-based principles of strength-based communication.

It came into being when I would instruct people to "acknowledge" or "validate" the other person, and they had no idea how to go about it. So I would whip out a sheet of paper and write down a step-by-step procedure, and suddenly everything became clear. Try it yourself and let me know what you think!

The criticism-stopping worksheet

Step 1. Begin your response with, "Well, of course!"

Step 2. Describe the worst possible thing the other person might be imagining. Don't hold back!

Step 3. State your own case. Use facts, stay positive, and never, ever use the word "but."

Step 4. Ask "What do you think?"

Here are some examples of how it works:

Mom: What a stupid idea you have about majoring in acting!
College student: Well, of course! I'll bet you worry that I am going to end up a starving actor who hangs around your house drinking beer in my underwear until I'm 43. In reality, I am planning to see how I can use the acting skills I learn to succeed in business, while I try to build a career. What do you think?

Boyfriend: Sheesh – here you go with another crazy business idea!
Girlfriend: Well, of course! The last business I tried failed miserably, so you are probably worried that I am going to crash and burn again – and take our finances with it. Here is how I am planning to gradually bootstrap this business this time (...) What do you think?

Wife: You never pay attention to me. You are always in front of your computer.
Husband: Well, of course! You probably feel like I am married to my career instead of you these days. I have been pretty busy, but perhaps we should schedule a "date night" every week just for us. What do you think?

So what do you folks think? Welcome your comments!

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