RESPONDING TO CRITICISM: A LUANN COMIC STRIP LESSON
Over the past year, followers of this blog have been learning how to skillfully deal with criticism. Some of the lessons focused on the four levels of maturity for responding to criticism.
Throughout these lessons we looked at the various reasons why some responses are viewed as more mature than others. I also noted that because people often get defensive when criticized, it is not enough to know clearly what to do in these challenging situations.
To really become proficient at using these skills it is crucial that we practice the skills to a point that we overlearn them in a manner that is similar to what police officers and other first responders do during their training. They repeat competent performances over and over again even after they can readily carry them out during practice sessions. This enhances their ability to carry them out during a crisis.
And so, from time to time, readers of this blog find that I am presenting another session to go over what they have already learned. I try to do this in a fun way, using different narratives to promote their ability to generalize their skills to a variety of different settings.
For those of you who are just beginning to get familiar with the basic ideas of this blog, I encourage you to spend some time going back to some of the early posts and working your way, one by one, to each more recent one. Instructions for doing this can be found in royal blue letters toward the bottom of this post.
Today’s practice post utilizes a fun Luann comic.
Here we see that Luann has tried on a costume and she and her friend, Bernice, discuss how it makes her look. Bernice provides some criticism to Luann.
I like some of the way Luann responds to Bernice’s criticism. Some opinions are shared, no one ends up getting physically hurt and any hurt feelings that perhaps does occur during their interchange probably won’t result in a loss of a friendship. But, I can think of some ways Luann could have responded differently that would have struck me as more mature.
What about you? I’d like you think about this for a minute and see if you can come up with a way that is clearly more mature then Luann’s approach. Imagine, if you will, the specific words Luann could have used and how she might have said them that would lead you to feel that her response as a whole is more mature than the response that she uses in the comic. After you give this a try, you can have some fun comparing what you came up with, with what I came up with.
First, I thought about the four levels of responding to criticism. I have them written down in a convenient place, so I went and checked out what they say. I notice that of the various levels of maturity, one of the highest levels is level four. It is described as follows:
4. Level 4 individuals listen to the criticizer in a supportive, warm, friendly style, and then make it clear that they fully understand what was said. Moreover, they put the criticizer at ease by making statements that indicate that the wise learn from criticism. Some time is spent on showing that they are thinking about the criticism. If, after thinking about the criticism the criticism is deemed to be correct, they make a statement frankly indicating, “I can see your ideas have merit and I intend to use them in the future.” If they are not sure if they agree, they make a statement indicating that they are very interested in what was said, plan to think a little more about this over the next few days and then they will be ready to discuss this further. If, after thinking about the criticism, the criticism is deemed to be incorrect, a statement is made designed to disagree without being disagreeable. More specifically, a sense of humor, some listening in a caring way and a few smiles help to traverse rough terrain. As the episode winds down, the criticizer is encouraged to feel comfortable communicating suggestions in the future.
After reading this description of a level four response, I then thought further about how I would change Luann’s response so it is more mature.
I notice that in the third frame of the comic Luann responds as follows:
Luann’s response here strikes me as defensive. I can certainly understand why she has become defensive. Nevertheless, to be more in line with a more mature response, I would have her say instead,
“Thanks for your honest opinion, Bernice. One of the things I like about you is that I can count on you to tell me straight what’s on your mind. Yeah, we both agree that I don’t have the perfect body for this kind of outfit. Do you have anything else you want to say to me about this?”
Then, I looked at the fourth panel of the comic:
Here, Bernice criticizes the outfit as demeaning, and since Luann is planning to wear it, Bernice can be viewed as indirectly criticizing Luann. In response, Luann puts her hands on her hips and leans back while saying, “You obviously don’t know who Zeye is, Bernice.” I’m not sure about this because I can’t really hear the tone of voice that Luann is using, but Luann might come across as demeaning Bernice’s lack of knowledge about who Zeye is.
I think Luann would here come across as more mature if she would have instead responded by looking concerned and then replying, “You think this outfit is demeaning. Hmmm. Let me think about this for a few moments.” Then, after some time showing Bernice that her criticism is worth some serious consideration, Luann could have said, “This outfit is just part of who Zeye is. Zeye is not only a babe in a skimpy outfit. She represents a powerful, confident superhero who bravely battles interplanetary evil.”
I then looked at the last frame of the comic:
Here, Bernice clearly feels uncomfortable about women wearing skimpy clothes. In my opinion, Luann’s point is a good one, that is, the public oftentimes gets interested in a character if they find the character is physically attractive. But Luann appears to make her point while glaring at Bernice. She also doesn’t really directly address Bernice’s concern. I would have liked Luann to say something like the following:
“Bernice, you raise an interesting point about skimpy outfits being demeaning. In some societies women have to completely cover their bodies when they go out in public. To do otherwise is thought of as demeaning. These women are only permitted to wear outfits that allow people to see their eyes. The outfits are called niqabs and burkas. I think they are demeaning to women. When we go to the beach, we wear bikinis. When we go to certain parties, wearing a low-cut dress is considered OK. So, the way I look at this, what is deemed as demeaning depends somewhat on the culture and different social settings. Let me think about this some more. It’s a fascinating subject, Bernice. What do you think of burkas for women, Bernice?”
If Luann had replied in this way, she would have shown Bernice that she respected her opinion enough to give it some real thought. By asking a question to clarify how Bernice thinks about the topic would show her even more that Luann values her opinion.
And so, these are some thoughts that I had while trying to come up with a more mature response for Luann. In providing them to my readers, I don’t mean to suggest that my response is the only “real” mature response that can be made in similar situations. There are a variety of styles and approaches that can be legitimately viewed as just as mature as mine, or even more mature. My approach is provided chiefly to get each of you to think more deeply about this issue.
All right! There’s your lesson for today. From time to time, we’ll be playing around with similar practice sessions.
Have a wonderful week!
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.