Last week, my lady, Katrina Tse, did an outstanding job teaching a workshop to the members of the Baltimore/Washington PowerTeam and I want to share some of the distinctions from that session.
We called the presentation “Critical Damage” and it’s based on the excellent research findings of Allison Armstrong.
A Woman’s Reaction to Criticism
Women are far more reactive to criticism due to the fact that their emotion-based processing systems immediately take critical comments to heart. The feminine spirit is conditioned to live daily with “The Ideal Woman” – an unattainable level of perfection that sits on the shoulder of every woman. She is the voice in her head that tells her she is too fat, not pretty enough, stupid, emotional…in essence,the main message is she somehow falls short of the goal or is “not enough.” As a result of this wiring, her tendency is to immediately and without consideration, take action and punish those who fall short of the ideal…especially herself. This also leads her to lash out and emasculate when the one who falls short happens to be a man. While it may be an effective way to get compliance in the short term, it has a devastating impact long term.
A Man’s Reaction to Criticism
Unlike a woman, a man’s primitive wiring processes the world using logical and analytical factors. In short, his role is to solve problems and fix things; emotion would just get in the way when he is hunting and providing. That’s why he reverts to a 4-stage process to analyze which creates a buffer of sorts that women don’t naturally possess. In the first stage he considers the source to decide if the feedback is from a reliable source. Next, he determines if the criticism is in alignment w/ self…in other words, is it true? Third, he undergoes a cost benefit analysis to decide if it’s worth the time and effort to change. Then, only after he’s gone through all 3 of these stages, he will use his final metric: is this the right time to change? Of course, even though he has a very well-developed system, the masculine is not impervious to criticism…especially when it comes early in his life, before these defense mechanisms are well-developed.
What Can We Learn From This?
Underneath all criticism, there is one common root – it simply means someone’s needs (or desires – and there is a distinct difference) are not being met. Therefore, the best way to short-circuit the damage is to frame the challenge in the positive. Instead of focusing on the perceived offense, instead focus on what the “critic” NEEDS – you can literally ask, “is there something that you need from me?” This will frame the discussion in the direction of where you want to go in the future rather than focusing on the past. Or if you are the one who wants to offer critical feedback on an unmet need, ask the person if you can have a “needs conversation” and find out when would be a great time for them to receive it. This will eliminate a great deal of “the heat” that comes from an argument…and lead you to a place where you’ll have a lot more “light.” Katrina and I both use this and it works very well – so give it a try and let me know what you discover.