Criticism versus feedback: learn how to commune with the other
Communication is the one issue most people attribute their relationship problems to. I have good news, communication in and of itself is not the issue. We need to look at how the brain receives and interprets information. Communicating is the act of talking. I believe we all are well adept at talking. Many of us, actually, talk too much. The issue is not then with communicating but rather with relating. We have misunderstandings not because we cannot communicate but because we cannot relate. Let’s explore the difference between criticism and feedback. Criticism comes from the world of the mind and feedback comes from the world of feelings.
The majority of people, when feeling emotional or insecure, communicate from a critical place as a way to gain control. It is common when we are emotional to embellish facts and re-write history to make a point. Criticism hurts and erodes the integrity of the relationship because it is competitive not collaborative. It is defensive, not open-minded. So much communication is fear-based, and out of fear and insecurity criticism is employed. It is the distortion that if we feel ‘righted’ that we will solve our insecure emotional state. Criticism only deepens the emotional insecurity, it deepens chaos in the relationship and it deepens resentment.
As I stated in my article on Seduction, argument is the most repulsive form of language because it makes a person look defensive and ugly. This is anti-seductive. If we are engaging in criticism we are coming from a low frequency. To criticize is to judge and make someone wrong. It is usually delivered in the form of an attack, over-correcting, or sarcasm. If we are being critical of someone we see ourselves as right. We maximize our own qualities, and minimize the qualities of the other. We are right and they are ‘misinformed.’ When we criticize we are coming from a place of insecurity, anger and control. It is a perfectionistic place of demanding something in the other that we are not adept at doing ourselves. To criticize is to cut down. Critical people blame-shift and deflect the issue from what is really going on, to some unimportant non-issue. Criticism creates argument, separation and division. It is based in argument and it promotes more argument. It is all based in talking and litigating whose thoughts and perceptions are more correct than someone else’s.
The egocentric energy of criticism creates what I call the chaos-loop. Once someone is criticized, they feel stung. The central nervous system experiences that sting and becomes adrenalized. Typically the receiver feels a need to defend and or prove themselves to the criticizer. Once the receiver engages in defending themselves they are hooked. They will not win the battle. Criticizers are tenacious fighters, especially in the area of verbal warfare. They will outlast their victim every time. If they can get you hooked, the more you say, the more ammunition you give them to continue the criticism and argument. It will loop around and loop around all the while you are being further and further criticized until you “tap out.”
Something to remember: Criticizers are not relationship oriented. They are agenda oriented. Because their agenda is to win the argument or get their way it does not matter what the truth or what the reality of the situation really is. They are not looking at that. They are only looking at poking holes in every word you say, to get you so far off topic that you will be confused about what the topic is even supposed to be. It is a loop that is likened to going on a ‘throw-up’ ride at an amusement park. The best way to get out of this issue is to stay away from these people. Now, if this person is your boss, your best friend or your partner, you will need to change your response to them. One great way to do this is practice saying, “I am not responsive to criticism but I am always open to feedback.” If that does not work, then I suggest getting away from them for a while in order to stop the momentum of the criticizer.
It is very easy to criticize. Criticism is fairly thoughtless and superficial. When we give feedback we are operating on an entirely different frequency. We are thinking about feelings, not about blame. The great thing about the emotions is that they are universal. To communicate means to commune, to come together. The way you experience sadness is the same way I experience the emotion of sadness. The way you feel fear is the same way I feel fear. The same things may not trigger these emotions in us, but the way they are felt is the same. We can only come together or commune on what we feel. So here is how we can move into relating and away from communicating. If we all experience/feel the emotions in the same way, then we all have the capacity to understand the other and the way they feel. We may not understand and/or agree with why they feel the way they will but we can understand the feeling they are having and that is where feedback comes in.
If there is a difference between two people we can start by asking the other what they feel rather than what they think. To be honest no one really cares what we think. Thinking is subjective and often distorted, where feelings are just feelings. They are not right or wrong until we attach them to thinking and proving ourselves. To give feedback we are sharing our feelings about something. Feedback opens up and criticism shuts down. Feedback has a good intention, and originates from a place of vulnerability and reflection. Feedback is never violent. Feedback generates conversation, negotiation, and evolvement of new perceptions. Feedback offers the opportunity to nurture and look more deeply at someone or something. Feedback is succinct and to the point and does not promote a loop-like engagement. Feedback promotes thought in self and in the other. Higher opportunities, visions and understandings can come from feedback. When we feel we have related with another, we feel close to them, we feel as if we have deepend a connection and trust is developed. Trust is developed because we were able to be seen, loved and understood by someone else. Feedback comes from a personal truth. Feedback is not looking for agreement but understanding. Feedback allows for personal differences without persuasion.
Now, chronically defensive people will not know the difference between criticism and feedback. How do you know if you have been critical or if you have given feedback? By how you feel after you have shared whatever it is you needed to share. If you feel you have absolved yourself of the negative feelings you were having and you feel free, regardless of their response to you, then you probably were approaching with feedback. If you leave a conversation with the need to blame, further defend yourself and you go back into litigation preparation then you were probably being critical or responding with criticism. Anything long-winded and hyperverbal is criticism. Feedback is simple. At the core, the truth of what we feel is usually simple and easy to explain. The feelings themselves are not complicated. It is the way we think about what we feel that makes it complicated. When we feel we get vulnerable, often when we feel vulnerable we get self protective and our minds take over and distort the feelings to protect them. Feeling then becomes MIND, and not feelings.
I highly recommend ridding your life, as much as you can, of chronically defensive people. The only relationship opportunity you will have with them is superficial. If you can accept these people as being superficial then you can live in the awareness of the place that type of person will have in your life, and not to expect more. Knowing someone’s place in your life is extremely important for your well being. If you know a certain person is chronically defensive and will not ever really be able to see you, then you should not expect more and tailor your relationship to that person being only in a limited place in your life. To not do this is to allow more and more pain into your life. You will find as you clear your life of these difficult people, more space opens up for your own happiness. Who is in your life is the most important decision you make.
Little life message: To commune with the other, use your feelings not your thoughts. Angrer, grief, love, fear, shame, hurt, envy. Use these feelings as guides to relating.