I've never been able to respond to criticism very well. I always tend to take it personally and start crying at the first hint that I'm not measuring up in some way. I just hate that. Why, oh, why must I blubber foolishly over WORDS directed at me?
My husband has learned to couch his helpful comments with careful prefacing and disclaimers.
"Now, I don't want you to take this personally, this has nothing to do with you, but I'm just going crazy here with the house looking like a complete disaster. I'm not saying anything about your lack of care, I know you have been busy, and rightfully so, and I really appreciate all you do, but we've got to do something different around here or I will lose my mind."
Of course, all I hear is: "going crazy, complete disaster, your lack of care, lose my mind." It's just ridiculous. After the tears come my defensive statements, beginning with "But I always" and "You never." Needless to say, I've got a long way to go toward rational conflict resolution.
So I was completely impressed with my daughter, Em's maturity when faced with constructive criticism last week. She attends a university well-known for its highly competitive music program. In order to get in to the program, she had to prepare 4 vocal pieces (2 English, 2 Italian) to audition before a panel of judges. She is an amazing singer, songwriter and pianist, but the level of perfection required for the stringent program is not for the faint-hearted.
First of all, I would never have the nerve to get up and open my mouth in front of judges. And to see them scribbling on their critique sheets would be unbelievably unnerving. Try hitting a high note in Italian with music snobs peering over their glasses at you. gulp.
Despite her relatively high scores (low 90's), it was the critiques that accompanied them that would have reduced me to a quivering puddle of tears.
But not my Em.
She took them instride. She defended most of the comments with "Yes, I can see what they mean. I do need to work on that."
She even laughed about THIS Simon Cowell-like critique: "If you worked at it, you could probably become a pretty good singer."
Who IS this guy? He is obviously an elitist opera quote-unquote "expert."
Em pointed out that the judge added a footnote, "but, it takes a lot of work and you have the voice to do it."
Where I would have focused on the negative, Em chose to focus on the positive. "See, Mom, I DO have the voice to make it!"
I'm humbled by this 18 year-old young woman. Her grace under pressure and before such criticism makes me want to step up my own game. She is able to take the comments as a means of helping her reach higher and try harder. By golly, she's got spunk!
I have no idea where she gets that. Must be from her father's side.