Responding gracefully to constructive criticism

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Mona Pereth
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05 May 2021, 2:08 am

Next week Tuesday, my support group (now meeting via text-based chat) will have a topic-focused discussion meeting (via text-based chat) on the topic of "Responding gracefully to criticism."

As I've explained at the top of my page of tutorials on giving and receiving constructive criticism:

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As autistic people, we need other people to be assertive with us, rather than expect us to pick up on subtle hints (which many of us are very bad at) and then abandon us when we can't. Therefore, we need other people to feel safe being assertive with us. We don't need to agree with their criticism, but we do need to be able to respond to it in a graceful manner, so we can continue communicating with the other person until either we reach a mutually acceptable win-win compromise or we agree to disagree.

Both the ability to respond gracefully to criticism and the ability to give constructive criticism in a polite way are essential to effective teamwork. Yet even many NT's do not have these skills, preferring instead to rely on subtle hints -- even though subtle hints are not, even for NT's, an effective way to communicate about work-related details.

Thus, I consider the ability to respond gracefully to constructive criticism to be an absolute must-have skill -- and it's the kind of skill we would still need even in a world that was maximally accommodating toward autistic people.

Alas, many of us are hyper-sensitive to criticism -- so much so that some therapists are now using a special new term, "rejection sensitivity dysphoria," to refer to the extreme emotional reactions that many people with autism and ADHD have against criticism (or anything that could be perceived as criticism), associated with intense feelings of rejection. My tutorial page includes a section listing articles on this topic -- and a video, by someone with ADHD, advising on How to Deal with Rejection Sensitivity.


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Benjamin the Donkey
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05 May 2021, 3:20 am

I don't want people to be assertive with me, I want them to be clear and explicit with me.


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cyberdad
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05 May 2021, 4:04 am

Yeah my daughter is going through that phase now....topical subject



MrsPeel
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05 May 2021, 4:52 am

That's a great skill to learn.

I used to be really bad at receiving criticism because of sensitivity around rejection.
Not sure I've completely got over it either. A few years ago a senior at work made a criticism about the way I was talking to him, which hit two trigger points at once - the rejection thing plus sensitivity about my social/communication skills - and I ended up crying at my desk :oops:



Mona Pereth
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05 May 2021, 6:40 am

Benjamin the Donkey wrote:
I don't want people to be assertive with me, I want them to be clear and explicit with me.

Why do you think being "assertive" does NOT mean being "clear and explicit"?

IMO "assertive" means being "clear and explicit," but in a way that tries to avoid being outright insulting. See my list of tutorials on assertiveness.

EDIT: I would like to request that we discuss your perception of the difference between "assertive" and "clear and explicit" in this separate thread on assertiveness rather than here, to keep this current thread on the topic of responding gracefully to criticism. Thanks.


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Last edited by Mona Pereth on 05 May 2021, 7:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

AprilR
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05 May 2021, 7:17 am

^Assertive is more of a strong word to me at least it gives that impression. Maybe because i mix it up with "aggressive" It might be the case with other people also.



Mona Pereth
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05 May 2021, 7:57 am

AprilR wrote:
^Assertive is more of a strong word to me at least it gives that impression. Maybe because i mix it up with "aggressive" It might be the case with other people also.

That's a possibility, I guess. If anyone wants to discuss this further, I would appreciate it very much if we could do so in this separate thread on assertiveness rather than here, to keep this current thread on the topic of responding gracefully to criticism.

Anyhow, back on topic:

On my page of tutorials, I mention that the video How to Deal with Rejection Sensitivity has an accompanying 4 R's Reference Card (Google doc), which appears to be very similar to the 5 R's of Shankar Self-Reg and also the 4 R's of Affiance Financial's Behavioral Financial Advice. (I smell a copyright dispute brewing ....) Be that as it may, the 4 R's Reference Card looks potentially useful.


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Fnord
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05 May 2021, 8:00 am

There is no such thing as "constructive" criticism -- it is all destructive in some way.

Why does it seem that people who try to justify "constructive" criticism also seem to enjoy running other people's lives?


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Mona Pereth
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05 May 2021, 8:35 am

Fnord wrote:
There is no such thing as "constructive" criticism -- it is all destructive in some way.

There are ways of phrasing a criticism to avoid personal attack as much as possible and focus on the issue at hand. Constructive criticism is assertive rather than aggressive.

Seems to me that both giving and gracefully receiving constructive criticism are essential to effective teamwork, thus essential skills in many workplaces.

Fnord wrote:
Why does it seem that people who try to justify "constructive" criticism also seem to enjoy running other people's lives?

I'm not sure who/what you are referring to here. But "running other people's lives" should not be the goal, in my opinion. The goal should just be to resolve a matter that is causing problems amongst the people involved.

And such matters will inevitably arise sooner or later. People don't just magically get along perfectly.


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Mona Pereth
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07 May 2021, 12:59 am

On my page listing tutorials on giving and receiving constructive criticism, I've added some more tutorials about responding to criticism, and I've split that category into two categories: "Responding gracefully to (mostly constructive) criticism" and "Responding gracefully to (mostly hostile or inappropriate) criticism." I've also added a section on anger management and calming oneself down, since that is often crucial both to giving constructive criticism and to responding gracefully to criticism.

One of the more concise tutorials in the "Responding gracefully to (mostly constructive) criticism" section is the first one, 6 Ways to Take the Sting Away When You Receive Criticism by Susan Heitler Ph.D.

Brief outline:

"Mistakes happen. Use these mantras to stay feeling OK whatever the criticism."
"Receiving Criticism Mantra #1: My actions are not me."
"Receiving Criticism Mantra #2: Information is power."
"Receiving Criticism Mantra #3: Mistakes are for learning."
"Receiving Criticism Mantra #4: No person is perfect."
"Receiving Criticism Mantra #5: Different people see different data."
"Receiving Criticism Mantra #6: Consider the source."

For each of the above "mantras," the article contains a few paragraphs explaining it.


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kitesandtrainsandcats
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07 May 2021, 1:23 am

Mona Pereth wrote:
Seems to me that both giving and gracefully receiving constructive criticism are essential to effective teamwork, thus essential skills in many workplaces.

It is also essential in things like our local creative writers group.

And a gal who gracefully received some gracefully given constructive criticism she had asked for from a group member who is skilled at poetry (not me) has applied that criticism and has now won some prizes.


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07 May 2021, 12:31 pm

Mona, that bit about "rejection sensitivity" was new to me. I know some people who are just like that. In fact, it describes my first husband to a tee. When we were newly married and I expressed that I wanted something different around the house, he dissolved into tears! Even the slightest bit of disapproval or friction was being perceived as rejection.

I do have a bit of constructive criticism for you though, Mona. You very frequently have a well conceived, thoughtfully laid out teaching or didactic piece to offer us poor unfortunate aspies. I'm not sure how many people follow you into another thread, or go to your blog or website with all the fixes. The fact is, all this just rubs me the wrong way. I wouldn't be surprised if it affects other people similarly. I have not accepted you as a professional whom I want to follow, even if you were and even if you had much to offer. I come here partly for support and partly for the occasional perspective I may have not experienced on my own - not a reading list or a complete curriculum on reforming myself.

I must say, though, your well composed posts and very good usage, syntax, and punctuation are certainly refreshing.


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07 May 2021, 1:29 pm

BeaArthur wrote:
...  I do have a bit of constructive criticism for you though, Mona.  You very frequently have a well conceived, thoughtfully laid out teaching or didactic piece to offer us poor unfortunate aspies.  I'm not sure how many people follow you into another thread, or go to your blog or website with all the fixes.  The fact is, all this just rubs me the wrong way.  I wouldn't be surprised if it affects other people similarly.  I have not accepted you as a professional whom I want to follow, even if you were and even if you had much to offer.  I come here partly for support and partly for the occasional perspective I may have not experienced on my own - not a reading list or a complete curriculum on reforming myself. ...
Ditto.

Some of us have to learn the hard way that not everyone else appreciates someone trying to "fix" them.


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07 May 2021, 1:36 pm

The way I see it:

Mona has her take on things; other people have their take on things.

I don't find Mona to be condescending in the least. She just has her way of presenting things, based on her experience in life.



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07 May 2021, 1:37 pm

kraftiekortie wrote:
The way I see it: Mona has her take on things; other people have their take on things.  I don't find Mona to be condescending in the least. She just has her way of presenting things, based on her experience in life.
Do you ever take a stand on anything?


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kraftiekortie
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07 May 2021, 1:40 pm

You damned right I do!

I take the "stand" that Mona is one who is truly dedicated to improving the lot of those with autism. I don't agree with everything she says; and she certainly doesn't agree with everything I say.

I feel like she's sincere about what she does and says, even if it's not always "right" in my view.

By the way, my view on Mona has nothing to do with my view on Bea.