DEALING WITH CRITICISM BY DIGGING DEEPER
“I’m pleased that you’ve been checking it out,” I reply. “I’d love to hear more about your reactions.”
“Well, yesterday I went over to pick up my friend, Sue, to go to a party. She was wearing an outfit that was almost identical to mine. So I told Sue I didn’t like what she was going to wear. If we went to the party in the same outfits we’d look like the Bobbsey twins. We’d look ridiculous. Sue quickly saw that I was right and changed her clothes. Then we decided that in the future, whenever we plan to go to a party together, we’ll check with each other before we pick out what we’ll wear. So, you see, without going through all of your stupid ‘DIG,’ desire, interference, guilt, nonsense, I provided negative criticism to Sue, and we worked it out just fine.”
“I like the way you dealt with it, Judy, especially how you made plans to prevent the same problem from recurring. Checking with each other before choosing your outfits makes a good deal of sense. Well done!”
A glorious smile graces Judy’s face.
“Judy, I also agree with you to a large extent about using the DIG Conflict Model to deal with criticism. In many situations, perhaps even most situations, there is no good reason to go through the steps I’ve been describing in my blog posts. As long as the issues are simple enough to understand easily and if whatever approach you are in the habit of using leads you to a comfortable resolution, then, by all means, you don’t have to bother using the DIG Conflict Model.”
“There are times that I do get defensive or confused,” Judy allows. “I know there are times I get defensive, and I’ve said some things even recently that I now regret.”
“I want to hear about those regrets, Judy. At the same time, it takes a special kind of learning to handle defensive feelings. I think it would be helpful if we first rehearsed a plan that can increase the respect you will feel for yourself. It has to be well rehearsed because when people get defensive, they oftentimes have trouble thinking as clearly as when they calm down and have some time to think things over. It’s also helpful to learn to get comfortable with this new way of thinking by discussing someone else’s conflicts, rather than discussing events that directly happened to you. This will allow you to look at this new approach more objectively. Once you get the ideas down so that you can smoothly work with them, then it will be far easier to apply them to events that are occurring in your own life. So, if it’s okay with you, Judy, let’s return to my Charlie Brown comic that I used in my last blog post.”
“Well, I do want to get you back on my recent regret, but I love the Peanuts characters, especially Lucy. Go ahead, Dr. Rubin, let’s hear one of your lessons.”
FIRST, LET’S REVIEW THE OLD LESSONS
“Okay! First, please read again the Peanuts comic we looked at in our last lesson:
Judy, after reading it, smiles, and says, “Okay, now what?”
“Let’s review some key points, Judy. From the ideas we have been discussing over the last few months, what do you think Charlie Brown can do in this type of situation that will be helpful?”
“He can tell himself that it is good that he has begun to criticize himself in this situation. Criticism, if handled skillfully, is the path toward wisdom.” (see blog post titled, IS CRITICISM BAD?)
“Excellent! What else might be helpful for him to do?”
“Think about how he is likely to criticize himself, and rate that style using your FIVE LEVELS OF PROVIDING NEGATIVE CRITICISM. If Charlie Brown already started to criticize himself before he did this, it would help him to look at the style he has begun to use, and then rate that. After rating the style, it would help him to see if he could come up with a more mature style that would match either a 4 or 5 level. To help him do this, he might work a little on summarizing his problem using the word, “DIG.” That will help him to dig for his desire, what is interfering with his desire, and what he feels guilty about.” (see DIG FOR THE CONFLICT)
“Very impressive, Judy. You’re a fine student. If Charlie Brown asked you to summarize his conflict, what would you say?”
“Charlie Brown, you seem to desire that you not yell at your baby sister, but the fact that you did has led you to perceive that, interfering with your desire, you are likely to continue yelling at her. You appear to feel guilty for your actions by saying you hate yourself.”
NOW, THE NEW MATERIAL
“Well, Judy, I can see that you’re now ready to move on to some new material. After you get skilled at summarizing the most obvious conflict in a difficult situation, it’s then helpful to use the word “DIG” to remind you to dig a little deeper to find other desires that may be important to consider. What other desire do you think Charlie Brown might have that is important to consider in this situation?”
After some thought, Judy replies, “He desires to play with his puzzle, but his sister interfered by messing it up.”
“Yes, Judy, very good. Do you think Charlie Brown thinks his sister is guilty of doing something wrong for messing up the puzzle?”
“Probably not. He seems to recognize that she is only a baby, so he’s not blaming her for what she did.”
“I think you are right, Judy. Now, when we are using the DIG Conflict Model, to have a full conflict we must have all three conditions of a conflict, the desire, the interference, and the guilt. In the problem you just described, we only have the desire and the interference, but no guilt. Even though this is not a full conflict, it may still be very important to consider in this situation. We will be calling this type of problem a DESIRE-INTERFERENCE PROBLEM. And so, when we think about all of the possible problems that might be involved in a difficult situation, we write down a summary of all of the possible conflicts and all of the possible DESIRE-INTERFERENCE PROBLEMS.
“To help us to dig a little deeper to find any of the other important problems in a difficult situation, today I am giving you two types of tools to dig, two types of shovels to dig, if you will. The first shovel is look for the desire to be liked or loved. The other tool is look for the desire to be free to make one’s own decision. I discussed both of these tools (looking for the desire to be loved and looking for the desire to avoid interference with freedom) more thoroughly in my blog post titled, WHY IS CRITICISM SO HARD TO BEAR?”
“Oh, now I remember that one,” says Judy, as if a light suddenly went on in her head. “You talked about how people, when criticized, might feel that people won’t like them, and why it’s important to consider this when we try to come up with a long term solution to problems.”
“Yes. I also mentioned that when we are criticized we often think that the criticizer wants us to make some change. This criticism might be provided not simply as a suggestion, but the criticizer soon begins to put pressure on us to change even against our will. We may, therefore, become defensive as we begin to desire to make our own life decisions without outside pressure. When we dig deeply into a difficult situation we would be wise if we look at how the “desire to be liked and loved” is involved in the situation and how the desire to “remain free to make our own decisions” is involved in the situation. It helps to write down a summary sentence or two for each of the conflicts that you can see in the difficult situation, each of the desire-interference problems, and then dig deeper using the two shovels, that is, the liking/loving shovel and the protecting freedom shovel. In this way, you will get a list of the problems that all have to be addressed if you wish to create wise and lasting ways to deal with difficult situations.
“Sometimes, when we look at a difficult situation, it all seems to be so complicated, that we just get lost on how to move forward in a helpful way. By using the approach I just described, the big difficult situation is broken down into easier-to-understand problems. Oftentimes, working on making some improvements to deal with each of these easier-to-understand problems, one by one, the larger difficult situation begins to improve.
“In coming weeks, I’ll present examples of how this approach can be very helpful. As we go through them, you’ll become so familiar with this approach that you will find that you can use it even in the most trying situations.”
Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional and social intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.