Everyone in leadership faces the challenge of those who are their critics whether for good reasons or not. The question is not whether we will face our critics but how we will respond to our critics and that response makes all the difference to our leadership.

Critics can be our best friends or become our worst enemies and which it is depends ironically not so much on them as it does on us. It often depends on how we react. Often even with the worst critic whose actions are unhelpful and whose bite is painful there is something for us to learn - if nothing else - how to respond to someone who is angry with us.

Job one with an angry, frustrated or critical individual is to de-escalate the situation. Usually angry people are frustrated. Something has punched their button. 

Nothing brings down the level of frustration, anger or conflict like a non-defensive reaction: Something like, "I am really sorry I have caused you that frustration. I would never do so intentionally. Help me understand the issues and what you would suggest if you were in my place." That kind of response immediately takes the wind out of a critics sails, opens up dialogue and asks them for their counsel. It is so rare that it will surprise those who have significant issues with us.

Often times, people want to be heard, to be understood: they do not intend to hurt - even if their criticism hurts. Opening up a dialogue allows that to happen. Asking their counsel, whether you can follow it or not, allows them to be heard. 

Asking the next question, "how can I rectify the situation" allows them to speak into the issue that has caused them angst and allows one to stay in relationship even if one cannot come to a fully satisfactory mutual solution. Most people can live with differences if we can stay in relationship with them. That is why defensive reactions are so deadly - they push people away rather than bring them closer together; from you rather than to you.

Further, explaining one's own self (without being defensive) often allows the other party to understand our heart, our perspective and the reasons behind our actions. If they realize that we are not meaning to cause them angst or hardship they will often soften their tone and attitude.

I personally see criticism and conflict as a challenge: Not to win the day necessarily but to do all that I can to win the person. If I want to win them rather than the argument my approach will be very different - and healthier. You won't win all over but you can increase your chances.
  • Jul 10, 2013
  • Category: News
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