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


How to guide to help a Friend in an Abusive Relationship


img_3128This week has been decided to bringing awareness to Domestic Violence.  We have addressed Statistics, Warning Signs and Reasons why victims stay.  Now, these are the 5 thing that you can do help a friend who is in a abusive relationship.

1. Listen. Let them talk. Believe what you hear. When you are abused, your abuser tells you that you are overreacting and it is your fault. So it is hard to assess how bad the abuse is. You believing them will help them get a more robust sense of self. It will build their confidence and help them make important decisions.

2. Talk to them. Negative voices are loudly repeating in their heads. They need kindness and compassion. Be patient. Tell them it is not their fault, that they are worthy and loved by you over and over.

3. Help them plan. It is not easy to “just leave.” Leaving can be extremely dangerous. It may take months or a year to plan. Be patient, think a long time over every idea and possible consequence to find the safest answer. As dangerous it is to live with an abuser, it is often more dangerous to leave.

4. Build a community. Leaving an abusive relationship is very complicated. It is not something to take on without support. Self-doubt is huge and can be immobilizing. Community support is essential. Surround them with people who love them and see them.

5. Call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline 1-800-799-7233 to find resources near your the person who is need of services.



Ten Reasons Victims Struggle to Leave



In efforts to continue to bring awareness to Domestic Violence in the United States during Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), Balancing the Circus will share an explanation to why victims of domestic violence struggle leaving.  I hope this allow others to reduce the stigma, increase awareness and direct others to support.  After reading the ten reason, come back tomorrow to learn how to be of help if you know someone who may be a victim of domestic violence.

  1. Fear in General. Often they have been cut off from  all their resources and have lived under threat and control, not being able to rely on their own decision making.
  2. Low self-esteem. People who have been emotionally beaten down over a period of begin to see themselves as failures at everything they do.  Offenders reinforce they belief to maintain their control.
  3. Self-blame.  Victimized people blame themselves for the abuse.  This is constantly reinforced by the offender who blames them for the abuser’s violence behavior.
  4. Holding the family together.  Women are raised and socialized to see themselves as the center of family cohesiveness, such as keeping their family safe and together.
  5. Fear of being crazy.  When you are told you are crazy often enough you begin to believe it. As a result, victims questions their ability to cope with all os the responsibilities of the outside world.
  6. Dependence. Victims of Domestic Violence have likely had their world made very small so that they could be controlled.  As a result, they lack experience in making their own decision and acting independently.
  7. Isolation. One of the most common things done to victims of domestic violence is to isolate them from family friends, physically and emotionally.  The more isolated they are, the less likely they will seek help or be aware of the help that is available in their community.
  8. Traditional Values. Traditional roles are in conflict with separation and divorce and support the notice of keeping the family together at all cost. There may also be a strong religious influence and unsupportive family members that reinforce a victim’s belief that she must stay in abusive relationship.
  9. Learned Behaviors. When you live in an isolated and abusive environment, over time the experience take on a normalcy because there is nothing else to compare it to.  When combined with lack of belief in oneself, the victim may come to the belief that the situation is impossible to change.  This may be further embedded if the victim grew up in an abusive home.
  10. The honeymoon stage and promise of change. Victims often love their partners and want a good marriage and a stable family life for their children.  With the promise of change is the hope that all of these things are possible.  In the hopes that the promise of change will be kept, the victim will forgive and give the relationship about change for a new beginning.

What can be done? Deal with the what is, not the what if.  If things were going to change on their own, they would have.  If there is to be any chance of hope for change, for the victim and the victim’s family, it is necessary to take action.  Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).  Check out previous blogs for Domestic Violence Awareness Month on Statistic and Warning Signs.  Please bring awareness and share this information with others.

REMEMBER that you are not alone, you are not to blame and help is available.

Sources: http://www.ncadv.org and Therapist Guide to Clinical Intervention by Sharon L. Johnson

#domesticviolence #DVAM2016 #DVAM #takeastandagainstdomesticviolence

Becoming Fluent in I-messages 


 Do you find yourself using you-messages when communicating with your partner and find yourself feeling frustration and disappointed with the outcome? When trying to effectively communication we often lack the skills to clearly get our feelings across. The use of You-messages focuses on what other person have done in a way that makes that feel as though they are being attacked. When we point fingers and make accusations, the person we are communicating with will mostly stop listening. And who could blame them? In return, they are focusing on what they are going to say in response to your attack. It is my hope that after reading this blog, you are able to transform your you-messages to I-messages so that you can become fluent in I-messages, not imessage (which is a texting app for iPhone user). 
I-messages tell what you feel, what the person has done to make you feel that way and why you feel the way that you do. By using I-messages versus you-statements, you can decrease tension and conflict. When there’s less tension and conflict, it makes it easier for you and the other person to create a solution. Let explore some an example of how to practice this communication skill.

You partner comes home 2 ½ hours late.

You are always late and inconsiderate

I’m worried when you are not home at your regular time because it makes think something happened to you.
It’s easier to listen to and respond to I-messages versus you-message. Practice using this I-message when communicating with someone that you care about and notice how they respond to you. Just in case you forgot how to use the technique here is the template. 
I feel…when you…because….

Additional I-messages sentence starter:

I want …
I would appreciate…
I think….
I expect….
I wish…
I understood you to say….
I thought you said…
It was understanding that…

The beauty of creating boundaries 


Why  are boundaries necessary?

  • For protection and personal security
  • To create order
  • To define ourselves clearly
  • To gain a clearer sense of ourselves in relation to others
  • To empower us to determine how we will be treated by others

Maintaining boundaries allows us to gain trust in ourselves to take care of ourselves. It results in a healthy sense of control and overall well-being. How do you plan on creating boundaries in your life today?

Shayla Peterson, LCSW

Dropping the I(ndependent) for the We


  “You are not giving up your right to vote or to own property if you let me make you a cup of coffee” – Anonymous

A few days ago, my husband and I had a conversation about independence within our marriage. We mutually agreed that we dropped the I(ndependence) for the we(dependence). We like to think that we have coined the term (we)dependent, which has the same definition as the paradoxical term interdependence. Interdependence can be defined as the mutual dependence between things or mutual reliant on each other, such as the relationship between plants and animals. On the other end of the spectrum is being too independent in the relationship or being co-dependent in the relationship.

“All the women who are independent, throw your hands up at me” ecstatically song by Beyonce, Kelly, and Michelle, who are members of Destiny’s Child on the Charlie’s Angels’ soundtrack in the 2000’s. As I reflect back, I can’t even imagine a time when that song played on the radio, and I did not wave my hands in the air and sing along. We live in a world that praises independence. Have you own money, buy your own things, be strong and do not show anyone your weakness is the name of the game. Have we created a culture where we have a hard time adjusting to finding a medium between independence and dependence? Have we become too independent? Training yourself to be extremely independent can be a disservice because when placed in situations where dependence is required, such as a relationship, we will have no idea how to navigate in these foreign waters according to Erica Djossa in her article on The Interdependent Relationship (2012).

On the other end of the spectrum is dependence. Dependence is the core component in building a secure and lasting relationship, yet we cringe at the thought of being dependent in a relationship. A healthy level of dependency allows us to depend on another person for support. Ideally, we are able to trust other people enough to open up and feel vulnerable yet remain self-confident enough to survive conflict and rejection. In intimate relationships, healthy dependency allows us to blend closeness, passion, and commitment. When this occurs, we experience a sustaining intimacy that doesn’t threaten our sense of self. Within a healthy level of dependence, we also know that asking for help doesn’t mean we’re helpless. We are aware that it can be an empowering opportunity to grow and learn and become stronger.

An unhealthy level of dependence is label as, Codependent. Codependence is an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, you lose yourself in another person, not knowing where you end, and they begin. This type of relationship can cause problems because you start to look at the other person to complete you. Understanding your worth as an individual rather than depending on your partner would be ideal and healthy in the relationship. Darlene Lancer, LMFT described Codependent couples as out of balance and often struggle for power and control. The codependent couple displays an imbalance of power, possibly where one partner may have taken on responsibility for the other. They are often anxious, resentful, guilty and responsible for their partner’s feelings and moods. People who are involved in a co-dependent relationship try to control each another to feel okay and get their needs met rather than respect for each other’s separateness and individuality. The partners in these type of relationships often can’t tolerate disagreement and blame one another for causing their problems without taking responsibility for themselves.

We can see that being on one extreme or the other is not going to work best. Try to visualize a scale with dependence with one side of extreme independence and co-dependence on the other end. Ideally, we want to move away from the other edges towards the middle to create interdependence. Check these five quick ways to develop and maintain balance in your relationship.

1) Work on improving yourself
2) Maintaining an individual identity
3) Compromise
4) Established Boundaries
5) Use of Effective Communication

The goal is to create balance in your relationship.

By Shayla Peterson, LCSW

Improve your Relationships, Improve your Mood


We all need people and having positive relationships in your life will help improve your mood. I can name at least four go to friends that can help boost my mood when I feel down. It’s important to maintain a balance in the relationship which means the relationship is meeting your needs as well as the needs of the other person. Therefore, when my friends need me, I am there for them as well. However on the flipside, unhealthy relationship exist, and if we want to live a healthier life, we may want to consider ending them. I’m sure we can all think of a relationship in 2015 with a friend or family member that has caused us pain or produced negativity. You may want to consider ending those relationships in 2016. Check out these seven tips on improving your relationships for experiencing a healthier new year.

Connection. Remember that one primary goal most of us have in life is to have other people care about us; needing other people in our life is a part of what makes us human.

Communication. We all have different communication styles from somewhere, so try not to judge yourself as aggressive, passive or passive-aggressive person. Accept it and work on making some healthy changes in the way you interact with others.

Maintenance. While it’s important to work out the big problems in your relationship when they arise, it’s, even more, important to take good care of your relationship on an ongoing basis to prevent the relationship from ending.

Mindfulness. Being mindful when communicating with others will benefit your relationship. People notice when you are present and actively engaged in your interaction with them.

Self-care. Work towards having balance in your relationship so that sometimes you’re putting your needs first. This is not selfish, it self-care and it will benefit the relationship.

Positivity. The relationship we have in our lives influences how we feel, so it is important to work towards having positive, healthy people around us on a regular basis.

Girl bye (also referred to as Goodbye). Not all relationships are salvageable. Take an inventory of the relationships you have in your life and think about how healthy they are. If you find yourself talking about this person when they are not around, you dread spending time with them and it’s hard to set boundaries with them; it may be time to end that unhealthy relationship. Acknowledge that your attempts at making the relationship more positive are unsuccessful.

As you take inventory of these 8 simple steps towards improving your relationships with others, observe what deficits that are neglect your friendship(s).  Make an effort to reach out to a dear friend this week to say, “HELLO.”  I’m sure reaching out them will bring a smile to their face and a smile to yours as you two shoot the breeze.  Do not underestimate the power of social contact with others and its effect on your over mental health.


Van Dijk, S. (2012) Calming the Emotional Storm: using dialectical behavioral therapy skills to manage your emotions and balance in life p155-167

Morin, Amy (posted October 15, 2015) 9 Signs it’s time to get a toxic person out of your life

Shayla Peterson, LCSW