How to maintain Mindfulness while giving Criticism 


Last week we learned how to take Criticism Mindfully. This week’s blog journal entry will look at criticism from the opposing end, Giving Criticism Mindfully of course. First, let us addressed the myth that giving criticism is easy. In reality, giving criticism can be quite challenging and requires us to be CLEAR, CALM and HONEST. It is not always easy to deliver the message. There are two key components you should go through when it is time to provide criticism to someone.

-Before you say anything, decide exactly what the other person has done that is a problem for you. 

– Decide what change you want to see and what you want them do or say next.

According to old Arabic proverb it suggest three gates you should be able to pass through before you open your mouth to speak: Is it necessary? Is it Kind? Is it true? You should be able to pass through at least two of these gates. So when you think about telling someone that they are a self-centered jerk for ridiculing your coworker, that statement would never pass the “necessary” or “kind” gates although it you may considered it to be true. Check out these 7 tips to assisted with providing a calm and honest way to provide criticism.

1) Consider the time and place – Do you have something to say immediately or can it wait until the person is more likely to listen to you? Sometime it may be best to say something immediately, it may not be appropriate, particularly if other people are around. Give criticism to the person directly, face to face (never on social media such as facebook, Instagram, etc). Show Respect and be respectful! Although you will have to wait for the appropriate time and place, do not let things build up and become worse. Tackle that problem as soon as possible when appropriate.

2) Focus on one thing at a time – if you one or more issue, focus on one problem at a time and deal with the most important issue first. Keep the conversation in the present. Do not allow yourself to be dragged into other issues presented by the other person.

3) Focus on the action, not the individual – This is not opportunity to dissect the other person’s every mistake and character flaws. Focus on your specific concern and keep it brief, avoid going on long after you made your point.

4) Be Judgeless and avoid accusing – Do not tell the other person “you do this and you do that.” “You” messages tend to label the other person in a negative way. Practice the use of “I” statements. See previous blog on use of “I” messages.

5) Tell the other person how you feel – Are you jealous? Angry? Upset? Do not be afraid to tell the other person how you feel, “I was embarrassed/upset/furious when….”

6) Listen, Listen, Listen to the other person’s response – Listen mindfully. Do not interrupt, there is a chance that the other person may give you information that you didn’t know which could change your views. Check in by saying, “Have I got this right? or You are say that…”

7) Decide what the next steps will be – If the other person doesn’t do what you want, what will you do? This does not mean issuing threats and punishment, it means deciding what your next steps will be. Make a choice: you can either stick to what you want or decide what will happen if you don’t get it. There is also the option to negotiate or compromise. Rest assured that you made your point and accept that the other person does not agree, let it go and move on.

I believe that giving criticism is just as difficult as receiving it, but with these 7 steps it gives us mindful ways of handling a not so easy situation. It is important that we keep relationships in tact (professional, family and friends) and when we lack the tools, it can cause undue stress when communicating in those relationships. Let continue to work toward maintaining connections with others more confidently and calmly more often. When you use this steps, send me a message and let me know how they worked out for you. And if you have any addition suggestion on how you have handle giving out criticism in the past, feel free to share, I would love to hear them.

(source: Mindfulness by Gill Hassan, 2013)

Remaining Clear, Calm and Honest,

Shayla Peterson, LCSW 

Mindfully Respond to Criticism in 8 Steps


The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.                                                                                                    -Norman Vincent Peale

Criticism can be defined as the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes according to Merriam-Webster dictionary.  However, no matter how you define it, it can be a tough pill to swallow.  In addition to criticism being a tough pill to swallow, it can be hard not to react instantly, deny everything, blame someone else, counter attack or storm off.  In some cases, you lose control and unable to listen objectively.

This blog will give 8 steps to utilize mindfulness to respond to criticism:

  1. Listen to what the other person is saying. Resist the urge to interrupt or defend yourself or do anything that will get in the way of really listening. At that moment, your purpose to understand what the other person is saying and what he or she is criticizing you about.
  2. Reflect and Clarify.  Before you respond to the accusation, check what is is you think the other person is accusing you and what you are feeling.  For example, “you are saying that I’ve not done what I promised I would do? or “So you are embarrassed about what I did to Sherry?”  Take time to recognize the feelings of the critic and you to the set the space for a better understanding.
  3. Respond.  Once you cleared what the criticism is and why the other person is criticizing you, take a moment (insert breathing here)!  Then think about how you feel and how you are going to respond. Learn to sit with the discomfort of an initial emotional reaction instead of immediately acting or reacting. You may fully agree, partial agree and refute what was being said to you.  Give clear examples of what position you stand on and provide clear evidence supporting your point of view. If you can’t respond immediately, make an appointment to see the individual, set up a phone interview or email them.
  4. When you can’t respond.  If you have received criticism and you haven’t had an opportunity to respond to the other person (such as they hung up the phone, shared the criticism from someone else).  Do not replay the criticism over and over in your mind,  the more time spent on dwelling on what someone dais, the less time you have to do something constructive with it.  Write you feeling down, when your feelings are written down you will be able to observe your thoughts.
  5. Do not counter attack. Stay in the present.  Do not defend yourself by bringing up offenses the other person may have been committed in the past.  Focus solely on the other person’s grievance.
  6. Agree to disagree. If you can resolve the situation, all well and good.  But if not, learn where to draw a line and agree to disagree.
  7. Look for seeds of truth in the criticism .  Criticism opens you up to new perspective and new ideas that you may not have considered before.  It’s not easy to take an honest look at yourself and your weakness.  Practice how to sit with the discomfort of an initial emotional reaction instead of immediately acting or reacting.  You might disagree with the other person, but there is something to learned from the situation.
  8. It is time to get in Perspective.  Does it really matter? Does it matter that your pattern thinks that you loaded the dishwasher all “wrong.”  The reality of it is, we can’t please all the people all the time.  It can be liberating to let people think whatever they want, they are going to think whatever they want anyway. Accept it, Let it go!!!!

I want to acknowledge the way we respond to criticism is dependent on various factors such as who giving it and why, but whatever or whoever has criticized you, there is a mindful way to handle it.   After implementing these 8 steps,  I would love to hear your feedback on the use of these steps.  Don’t forget to return for next week’s blog coving, How to Give Criticism?

Source: Mindfulness: Be Mindful. Live in the Moment. By Gill Hasson

Balanced in Criticism and Praise, 

Shayla Peterson, LCSW