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How not to listen to non-constructive criticism?

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This article is inspired by John Gurdon’s experience on criticism. He received Nobel prize in 2012. Though I have never met him, I counted a blessing that in a period of my life, I walked / cycled passed the Gurdon Institute (named after him) regularly.

An Eton teacher of John Gurdon wrote that the then 15-year-old John Gurdon wouldn’t listen, couldn’t learn simple biological facts and, horror of horrors, "insisted on doing work in his own way". In one test, Gurdon scored a miserable two out of 50.

The report made John Gurdon disheartened, but fortunately one of John Gurdon’s early decision on not to listen to non-constructive criticism indeed played an important role in his subsequent research work, including the discovery that mature cells can be converted to stem cells (and ended up winning a Nobel prize).

How not to listen to non-constructive criticism?

1. Be prepared that in life, no matter what we do (including noble actions), some people will criticize us. To protect ourselves against these peace robbers, we can
# enhance our inner strength by reminding / focusing ourselves on our strength
# have a thick face

2. Be aware of the reasons why people give non-constructive criticism

# jealousy and justification attempt. They are jealous of our achievements and attempt to gain self-importance by criticizing us. They justify themselves at the expense of us. Do not fear those who criticize us because of their jealousy. Perhaps, those who criticize us suffer from low self-esteem and meet their need of having self-importance by criticizing, instead we can be kind by giving them empathy and sympathy.

# ignorance and inexperience. For example, you want to attempt a new venture and you seek advices from people around you. Those who never start up a company or those who have failed will project their fear and criticize you. Do not listen to these naysayers. Instead, consult those who have successfully achieved what you want to achieve.

3. Be mindful of your perspective (mind), emotions, and body

# Must be able to see the BIG PICTURE
When I was a primary and junior high school student, I accept the fact that teachers are role models. I did not question their authorities. They were the grown-ups with more knowledge and wisdom than me who was only a fledgling individual. I did not realize that teachers are also human beings, subjected to human conditions (both positive and negative attributes). Few of my teachers had ego and misused their authorities. They criticized students who refused to follow them, e.g. if a student refused to learn bad words, he would be labeled as self-righteous. Fortunately, I moved to a better school and I learned a lot from my kind teachers – those who teach for the passion of teaching and nurturing the next generation more than for earning an income (of course everyone has to earn a living). Looking back, those teachers who criticized things I thought as right, did no longer matter.

Then, when I started my study in a famous place, an unhappy professor told me that the only reason I went there was because of the fame. Well, while that reason honestly contributed to my decision, I had bigger reasons why I fought all my ways to gain admission there. At that time, when such a professor with his authority / power and perceived superiority (in knowledge, ability, etc) said such things to students, the impact could be huge. However, I did not listen to him. I shifted my focus to my purpose (FOCUS ON YOUR PURPOSES). I managed to work with more successful (and more generous and kinder) professors, produced results, and graduated. My mentor CNC loves to say that success is always the sweetest revenge (without harming our past offenders).

My learning journey then brought me to meet inspiring entrepreneurs. In some aspects, I look up to entrepreneurs who create jobs for many people and excellent products / services with great values, more than to professors who care only about their tenure, publications, and self-importance in their fields (of course, there are always kind professors, I was fortunate to meet and work with few of them). My experience with the entrepreneurs unleash an inner desire of me: to be an entrepreneur. That is why I am working everyday to prepare myself for my venture, to provide values to my customers. I believe that I will be invited to teach / give talks at universities because of my expertise, instead of having to apply and fight for limited faculty positions.

To summarize, I have met more people and seen the world, my perspectives have changed. When you climb a mountain, your standpoint / perspective has elevated, you can see wider and hence the bigger picture.

# Must be able to be the master of our emotion
Often, when one is criticized, one will end up feeling sad, shameful, worried (worry is a kind of fear), or angry. All these emotions are of lower consciousness.
Be aware of your emotion, then you can shift those of lower consciousness to those of higher consciousness (e.g. courage, patience).
For example, you can manage your anger through techniques such as loving yourself, Siberian North Rail Road, and detachment.

# Learn to relax our body
Criticisms from people whose matter to us (e.g. parents, teachers, bosses, co-workers, or even peers) can result in racing heart, sweating, shaking, flushing face.
When you are aware of these physical reactions of your body, use relaxation to calm down. Breath deeply. Visualize / imagine serene places that you remember from your travel. Recall prayers that you have said countless times.

"Let nothing disturb you,
nothing frighten you,
all things are passing.
God is unchanging.
Patience gains all;
nothing is lacking to those who have God:
God alone is sufficient."
St Teresa of Avilla

Related:
How to Handle Criticism and Nonconstructive Feedback by Nicole Wolfe
*Davidson_not_hopeless* (in my ref folder)

More readings:
http://www.economist.com/node/21564525
http://www.talentsmart.com/articles/

30 revealing ideas from social psychology that can help us to appreciate people and our lives

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Below are interesting points (sometimes with some of personal thoughts & reflections) that I have learned from a course on social psychology taught by Professor Scott Plous of Wesleyan College.

@~@ Know yourself. Seach inside yourself.
LaoZi : "He who knows others is learned. He who knows himself is enlightened."
Benjamin Franklin : "There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self"
Daniel Gilbert : "We seem to know less about the worlds inside our heads that about the world our heads are inside."

@~@ People often MISWANT.
Blueroselady :
How to overcome the challenge that we are remarkably bad at predicting of what will make us happy?
This question is very important because many of life’s big decisions involve predicting our future feelings.
Examples of life’s big decisions : marriage, career / profession, migration, vacation.
Funny real-life example : a friend J told me that her husband fluctuates between praising-in-the-form of question and complaining:
(1) "why a such a smart woman like you wanted to marry a jerk and stayed on?"
(2) "It’s a nightmare to be with you for the rest of your life, I was enticed by your physical attractions"

@~@ Most people are too preoccupied with themselves to notice our shortcomings (e.g. your pimple, your spiky hair because of having no time to comb your hair because of waking up late).

@~@ "Research has found that audiences can’t pick up on your anxiety as well as you might expect …
Other people are noticing less than you might suppose."
Blueroselady: The next time you have to deliver a public talk / give a company presentation / make a sales pitch, do not worry. Just do it!

@~@ Susan Andersen & Serena Chen, 2002: In our varied relationships, we have varying selves.

@~@ Much of our behavior is not consciously controlled but automatic and unself-conscious.
Blueroselady: Be mindful. We can choose to practice mindfulness.
Mindful breathing… Mindful eating… Mindful doing…

@~@ self-schema vs possible selves
self-schema = beliefs about self that organize & guide the procession of self-relevant information.
possible selves = images of what we dream of or dread becoming in the future.
self-schema strongly affect how we see / perceive, remember, evaluate other people & ourselves.

@~@ major negative events vs minor irritations
major negative events activate our psychological defense.
minor irritations do not activate our psychological immunity.

@~@ Role playing becomes reality.
As we enact a new role, e.g. college student, parent. salesperson, we initially feel self-conscious.
Progressively, the role playing becomes reality.
This reminds me on the message that Amy Cuddy wants us to remember in her TED talk on body language.
Fake it till you make it.
Fake it till you become it.

@~@ How do we decide if we are rich, smart, or tall?
The answer is social comparison (Festinger, 1954) in affluence, status, achievement.
Blueroselady: Many things in life (that I know of) are relative, particularly those that are measurable.
A reader’s question: "I have made a living comparing data in my job / career. Comparing has become my second nature. How can I stop comparing in life?"
Blueroselady suggestions:
# Gratitude exercises.
# Detachment exercises : Detach your emotions from the outcome of your comparisons. I hear you, it is easy to say, but challenging to do, that is why detachment is an art; for the sake of our happiness, we must practice the art of detachment.
# Mindfulness exercises : Remember that (1) social comparisons can decrease our life satisfaction. (2) 人比人气死人 (3) "There is nothing noble in being superior to some other person. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self."
# Kindness exercises : Be kind & compassionate to yourself, leave behind comparisons with others.
# Affirmations e.g. It is better to be a first rate version of yourself than a second rate version of someone else.

@~@ Children whom other people label as as gifted, hardworking or helpful tend to incorporate such ideas into their self-concepts & behavior.

@~@ Self-reliance
Self-reliant individual is celebrated in Western literature, e.g. The Iliad, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

@~@ Classifying / pigeonholing / labeling cultures as solely individualist or collectivist oversimplifies.
The oversimplification is because within any culture, individualism varies from person to person (Oyserman et al, 2002).
Blueroselady: Remember not to do hasty generalization.

@~@ Interdependent self
# has a greater sense of belonging.
# is defined by social connections with family, colleagues, loyal friends.
# has many selves: self-with-parents, self-at-work, self-with-friends.
# disapproves egotism, whereas independent self disapproves conformity.
# e.g. collectivistic Asian & Third World cultures.
# persists more on tasks when they are failing because wants to meet others’ expectations (e.g Japanese)
# prioritizes WE over ME

@~@ "So far, most of psychology has been produced by psychologists in middle-class White American settings studying middle-class White American respondents."
However, there are ways of life beyond the one that each of us knows best.
Blueroselady: In other space & time context (e.g. sociocultural context), there can be different ideas & practices about how to live a meaningful life.

@~@ Tips: eat before shopping.
Gilbert & Wilson (2000) showed that hungry shoppers do more impulse buying

@~@ Why is your friend’s success can be more threatening that that of strangers?
According to Zuckerman & Jost (2001), you feel that your self-esteem is threatened.
How do people react to self-esteem threat?
High self-esteem people blame others or try harder next time.
Low self-esteem people blame themselves or give up.
According to Roy Baumeister, folks with high self-esteem are more likely to be obnoxious, to interrupt, & to talk at people rather than to talk with people.
Bonus: It is useful for parents to know that
# among sibling relationships, the threat to self-esteem is greates for an older chld with a highly capable younger brother / sister.
# many people could not escape their tough childhoods, which is a cause of low self-esteem.

@~@ Secure self-esteem
# is rooted more in feeling good about who one is than in grades, looks, affluence / money, others’ approval.
# is essential for long-term well-being.
# Blueroselady views secure self-esteem neither as high nor low self-esteem, but self-esteem in equilibrium / in balance.

@~@ self-esteem vs self-efficacy
self-esteem = if you like yourself overall
Self-efficacy = if you believe you can do something

@~@ How to be less intimated (by others) & less gullible?
# remember that personal testimonies are powerfully persuasive but they may also be wrong.

@~@ Self-serving bias?
# attribute positive outcomes to oneself (e.g. own managerial skill)
# attribute negative outcomes to other factors (e.g. a down economy)

@~@ Examples of self-serving bias
# Group members’ estimates of how much they contribute to a join task typically sum to more than 100%. For instance, husband & wife are members of a group.
# most business people see themselves as more ethical than the average business people.
# Pronin & Ross (2006) reported that we see ourselves as objective & everyone else as biased. No wonder we fight!

@~@ Feedback is best when it is TRUE & SPECIFIC.
Specific feedback e.g. You are good at maths.
General feedback e.g. You are great.
To encourage someone (e.g. children, mentees, students, subordinates), remember that specific feedback is more effective than general feedback.

@~@ To improve performance, give self-efficacy feedback instead of self-esteem feedback.
e.g. of self-efficacy feedback : You tried really hard.
e.g. of self-esteem feedback : You are really smart.

@~@ When to listen to criticism & not to listen?
David Dunning’s gentle rule: "if two people independently give you the same piece of negative feedback, you should at least consider the possibility that it might be true"

@~@ Terror management theory by Jeff Greenberg: the reality of our own death motivates us to gain recognition from our work & values, but not everyone can achieve such recognition.

@~@ Competence + perseverance = success

@~@ Success requires enough optimism to sustain hope and enough pessimism to motivate concern.

@~@ According to Jule Norem (2000), defensive pessimism can sometimes save us from the perils of unrealistic optimism.
Blueroselady: Negative emotions such as anger and pessimism are not entirely bad, we just need healthy ways to deal with them.
Tips: Whenever you feel angry, remember that the person you are hurting is yourself.

@~@ Tyranny of freedom? too many choices can lead to paralysis.
According to Barry Schwartz, individualistic modern cultures have an excess of freedom which leads to the tyranny of freedom.
# Choice may enhance regret.
# People have expressed greater satisfaction with irrevocable choices than with reversible choices. This is because when people can undo their decisions they tend to consider both the positive & negative features of the decisions they had made. When they could not undo their decisions, people tend to concentrate on the positive features & ignore the negative features. For example, people expressed more satisfaction with their marriages several decades ago when marriage was more irrevocable.

@~@ Love causes marriage, but marriage would also causes love.
Blueroselady: This hypothesis may explain why arranged marriages (in some cultures) have successfully worked and survived.

@~@ The 5:1 ratio of positive:negative activities
To sustain important relationships such as marriage and parental relationships, ensure that you strive to increase the ratio of positive to negative activities by at least 5 fold.
e.g. of positive activities : holding hands, giving a hug, lending a listening ear.
e.g. of negative activities : arguing, complaining.

More
# Book: Social Psychology. Chapter 2. DG Myers. 2012.
# Notes at the end of email

Written by blueroselady

December 26, 2013 at 3:55 am