I've learned a lot of things about relationships with other human beings the hard way - which means I didn't believe some of the very useful stuff I heard as a child. For example, I heard, "If you can't say something good; don't say anything at all." This is not only extremely good advice, it's been my experience that it's an essential building block of having happy relationships.
Humans hate being criticized and judged. We hate, hate, hate it! I always thought criticism was just necessary in life. I thought, "How else do we learn?" Well, I most assuredly do not believe that any more. Criticism beats us down and takes away our energy. Most of us already believe we're unworthy so criticism just backs up that idea.
The very best thing I've learned to do about criticism when it's leveled at me is:
1) To pause, hear it, and decide whether it's true or not. (This is a lot harder than it sounds. But as I've gotten more comfortable with self-examination, it's gotten easier.) Sometimes input from other people is useful if I don't let it stab me through the heart.
2) To realize that critical people usually are incredibly self-critical and are just taking a break from kicking themselves by kicking me. They also might be fearful of me in some way and are defending themselves in advance. That last one sounds weird but I've had that happen to me more than once.
3) For me the best responses are:
(C)"That could be."
(D) complete quiet with a smile.
All of these work just fine.
As for my criticisms of other people: Best thing to do is zip my lip.
There is no reason for me to criticize anyone - even myself. There aren't ANY good outcomes. What works is to focus on what I want to be like and what I want my life to be about. As I focus on what I want and act accordingly, my thoughts, feelings and actions crowd out much of the negatives.
If I don't like what someone else is doing and it actually affects me and I've talked my idea over with a wise person, I might ask the person I've thought of criticizing for what I want instead. This is rarely necessary. My belief is that I can accept most people the way they are. When I reach perfection, I can work on perfecting other people.
The thing is, all of this requires that I practice, practice, practice shutting up. Unless I keep quiet, there's no chance I'm going to speak in a way that avoids criticism. Warning: This is a lifetime job.
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