It is not easy to listen to criticism without becoming defensive, but it is important that you try. Conflict resolution requires you to have an open mind and a willingness to listen to the other person’s views. The most difficult part of this is listening to the person’s criticism of you. When people criticize you, it is natural and easy to become defensive. It doesn’t feel good to have someone angry, disappointed, or disapproving of you. The most important thing you can learn to do is to listen with an open mind without becoming defensive, attacking the other person, or acting self-righteous.
Here are three things that will enable you to listen to criticism non-defensively:
- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. We are often limited by our own perceptions, views, and experiences, which can easily prevent us from seeing what another person is experiencing. It is also important to recognize that misunderstandings develop in a relationship because both people interpret the other person’s words through their own filters and ideas. This is even more pronounced when the person is close to you and their opinion matters to you, because you become emotionally reactive. Try to understand why this person feels this way.
- Don’t take it personally. The more you can allow other people to be who they are and feel what they feel without taking it personally, the healthier your relationships will be. Just because someone feels a certain way doesn’t mean it is true for you. You can listen to gain insight into what the person is experiencing, but you don’t have to accept it as your truth or agree with it.
- View it from a third-person stance. Pretend you are viewing the situation or discussion as if you were an uninvolved third party. It can even help to picture yourself as a fly on the wall. Ask yourself what you are observing about what is happening. This makes you naturally detached and open-minded by requiring you to step back and observe yourself as well as the other person.
By Karla Downing
Relationship Devotional Prayer
Help me listen to criticism with an open mind rather than becoming defensive.
Relationship Devotional Challenge
- Try doing these three things the next time someone criticizes you.
“The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him” (NASB).