Humility and the willingness to change our minds is a gift. I want to be the person who can listen to feedback and learn from it. But there is a distinction between receiving feedback and paying attention to harsh criticism from strangers (or people who you know do not know you even if they have met you). It’s like that old quote about porn: “I may not be able to define it but I recognize it when I see it.” And in this way, there is a sometimes intangible but distinct difference between feedback and judgmental criticism.
Example. When criticism from strangers is in play, because of what I have learned from Brown’s work, I have a note I refer to that says, “Teresa, if the criticism doesn’t come with a reciprocity agreement, return to sender.” This short phrase sometimes helps to remind me of one my core values: reciprocity.
Translation: In my community we operate as equals. No one is an expert. We are all Bozos on the bus and we love Bozos. We try not to crosstalk or tell each other what to do (although we slip often and regularly forgive our slips). We try to stay in the #metoo space of relationship. We are all equals, we all have something to contribute, we don’t boss each other around, we practice giving and receiving feedback in safety. Reciprocity goes like this: “Hey, I read that you said this ______ and I am wondering if it might mean that you hate Jesus. Do you?” That statement invites reciprocity – a conversation. Or, “Hey, from what I experienced of you when you did _____, I doubt whether or not you know anything about spiritual transformation. Do you?” Again, a bit critical for a sensitive soul, but still, it invites reciprocity. It invites a conversation, not condemnation. If someone I do not even know tries to tell me who I am, I am learning that it is ok to return that comment to the sender without spending valuable energy on it. However, if my husband or my kids or my best friend tells me I do not love Jesus and I know absolutely nothing about spiritual transformation, I better pour some coffee, sit down, and ask hard questions about myself.
How do you process criticism and feedback? Do you make distinctions re: source?
In my next post I will talk more about the nature of reciprocity…
PS. When I speak of listening to my husband, kids and best friend – it is because they are trustworthy. Not all spouses, children and best friends are trustworthy, so adjust your own expectations according to your particular situation!