The following post is written by Kurt Graves, who is a mentor for executives on how to flourish in life; in business and beyond.
How do you react when someone gives you unrequested criticism about some seemingly mundane part of your life? You know, like when your wife notes that you steadfastly refuse to take off your shoes (she has asked you to do this 257 times in the last year) and your behavior is reinforcing the kids’ lack of respect towards her discipline. Do you dismiss it? Do you resist it? Do you ignore it? Do you hug it? Your wife is onto something. Our tendencies create behaviors and behaviors lead to outcomes and outcomes create reality. Your tendency to not listen to your wife’s seemingly mundane requests creates a lack of respect toward her, which is reflected in your kids’ behavior, and the reality you are creating is a less-than-happy-wife. Repeat after me, “Happy wife, happy life.”
Next time you get criticism (you won’t have to wait long for that moment), make time to go deeper than the surface emotions and ask some questions of the person giving the criticism; “Where else in my life do I do this?” “Who else gets this treatment from me?” “What excuses do I use when you give me criticism?” We ask others to help us to see ourselves, because we are not knowers of ourselves.
Some self-awareness can only come from those who are closest to us. And while many aspire to be great leaders, no one becomes much of a leader if they remain unaware of the content of their own heart. So take criticism as the gift it is and use it to examine your weaknesses. Converse with others and with God on those weaknesses and ultimately discern how to use them or dispose of them.
Self-awareness is hard work. Likely the criticisms that sting the most are in some way tied to deeply held wounds or some part of your identity and that is why you show your teeth when anyone hones in on them. And one more thing, don’t just hug criticism, be sure to hug the person giving you criticism. That’s uncommon. Hug them because they are giving you a great gift.
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