On the Hot Seat

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Much as I enjoy the seat warmer in my car on a cold morning, there is a point where, if the setting is wrong, it can get too hot and uncomfortable. Nobody likes an overheated seat. Here I’m talking about a different kind of hot seat – the hot seat of criticism which is also uncomfortable. Criticism is a form of judgement or evaluation, and if it’s given by someone who truly wants to help us it becomes constructive criticism. We all make decisions during our day that affect other people which means we will receive feedback about our choices. When we’re on the hot seat we want to handle criticism like a pro, so here are a few ideas for doing that to keep our inner peace intact.

Perhaps the hardest thing to do is to take a deep breath and remain calm when what we really want to do is defend ourself. Yes we need to respond, but let’s let go of our ego and not take anything personally (I know this is hard) because if we don’t, we’ll spend our whole life being offended. Let’s not get stuck on who’s right or wrong. This is the time to silence our inner know-it-all. Keeping our cool will save us from saying or doing something we’ll later regret.

It’s also important to look at who is doing the criticizing. If it’s someone we trust and respect than we can listen carefully to determine what rings true. Sometimes critics see our blind spots, so if we look for the nugget of truth in whatever is being said and use it as an opportunity for growth, we’ve handled criticism like a pro. If it’s someone who thrives on tearing others down than cut them off – rudeness and insults are not acceptable. Avoid them even if they are a longtime friend or family member. Let’s be selective about what we take on board.

The hot seat helps us develop the skill of defining our differences. It’s appropriate to be specific about how we may see something differently. Being overly accommodating to avoid conflict doesn’t help because peace at any cost is self-destructive. Here’s an old saying that rings true, “When you dim your light to please others, the whole world gets darker.”   Timing is essential to being heard so we may need to save what we want to say for another conversation when receptivity is higher. Remember, the response of the other person is not in our control.

No matter what aspect of our life the comments are about, whenever we’re given rough feedback let’s give ourself time to process what’s been said so we can respond thoughtfully. We can ask questions and request specific examples for clarity. With an open mind we can experience new ways of thinking and feeling which may take some practice, but will create something positive out of being on the hot seat. Appreciation can be expressed for the critique acknowledging the courage it took to share their feelings. Taking time to apologize for whatever our part of the problem is will work the miracle of turning combat into collaboration.

Sometimes what feels the worst can turn out to be the best. As Byron Katie writes in her book A Mind at Home with Itself, “Criticism is the greatest gift you can receive if self-realization is what you’re interested in.” She reminds us that we choose our feelings so no one can hurt us without our permission. When we bring our best selves to the hot seat we create an environment for growth, keep our peace of mind, and avoid being a victim.

Until Next Time – Sylvia

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