DEALING WITH CRITICISM: LESSONS FROM DENNIS THE MENACE
In my last post (DEALING WITH CRITICISM BY DIGGING DEEPER) I discussed some difficult situations that may occur when we deal with criticism. There, I mentioned that in these types of situations, it can be helpful to do our best to describe what the criticizer’s most obvious desire is for providing the criticism and then to look to see if there are any other desires that might be involved. To help us to dig a little deeper to find any of the other important desires in a difficult situation, I provided readers with two types of tools to dig, two types of shovels to dig, if you will.
a. look for the desire to be liked or loved.
b. look for the desire to be free to make one’s own decision.
Today, we begin to get some practice utilizing these two shovels.
Consider the following Dennis the Menace comic:
In this comic, obviously, Dennis’s mother desires that he straighten up his room. What other desires are important to consider? It appears to me that Dennis’s mother is glaring at him. Hmmm?
When a boy hears his mom criticizing him in this way, there’s a chance his desire to be liked will feel threatened. Is there also a chance that there is another important desire in this challenging situation?
When Dennis responds to his mother’s criticism by saying he’s tired of bein’ bossed around, he appears to be resisting his mother’s efforts to interfere with his desire to be free to do whatever he wants.
As criticism is being provided to us, we often begin to think something like, “I’m not going to let this person push me into doing something I don’t want to do. I’ll do whatever I want, and I don’t need anyone pushing me around.” This stance is part of what we call defensiveness.
EASING THE LIKING PROBLEM
When the desire to be liked and loved raises its mischievous head, we can let the person who has been criticized know that he is liked. This is what Dennis’s friend, Gina, does to lower the intensity of Dennis’s anger in the comic.
When Gina tells Dennis that his mom will cry if he leaves, Dennis is reminded that his mom really does love him.
Then Gina explains to Dennis that not only will his mom miss him, so too will his dad and dog. Dennis ends up deciding to resolve his conflict and go back home. Gina helped to resolve the conflict by focusing on easing the “liking” problem in this conflict.
Now let’s consider what we can do to help to resolve the problems in this situation by focusing on easing the “freedom” problem.
EASING THE FREEDOM PROBLEM
In the Dennis the Menace comic, while criticizing him, his mom could have offered Dennis the freedom to choose between two times to pick up his room. More specifically, she could have said something like this: “Dennis, I sure love you. It’s so much fun to have you around. It’s getting about that time to clean up your room. Do you want to do it now, or in an hour from now?” By giving a child a choice, a parent can come off as less bossy.
To help to come up with these types of ideas, the one thing I tend to do before providing criticism is to pause. Recognizing that I am about to provide criticism, and knowing that people tend to get defensive about not being liked and having their freedom threatened, I think about how to ease any perceived threat to these two desires.
- Many people associate criticism with not being liked.
- Many people associate criticism with an attempt to reduce their freedom to make their own decisions.
Once we learn to be skillful at recognizing these types of conflicts, we are in a better position to come up with plans to either resolve them or to lower their intensity. Therefore, in future posts I will be frequently providing examples that allows the reader to practice this skill.
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.