Are YOU Sensitive to Criticism?
I am. Truly. I am so sensitive to criticism that it even affects me on a physical level. It’s such an instinctive gut-level reaction that it triggers a variety of symptoms, like stomach aches, nausea, and the desire to just close myself off and withdraw from the world. It causes me to reconsider my deepest desires for living a phenomenal life and achieving monumental goals in exchange for living an “easier, simpler life” and letting go of all my visions of extraordinary success. It creates incredible self-doubt and intense exhaustion.
Last week I received a 10-page feedback report on a presentation that I did for a group of 780 HR professionals. Before opening the report, I could feel my heart begin to race and my skin start to prickle. The numerical scores were fine – I scored 4.3727 out of 5 on my presentation – slightly above average. The written feedback, however, nearly caused me to pass out. Here is an unedited sample of the feedback I received:
1. Great interactive presentation. It was a LOT more than I was expecting. You hit much deeper than the surface and that shows the value.
2. Wow – best presentation of the conference. Great presentation skills. Thank You!
3. Excellent technique. Challenges you. Thought provoking. Enlightening.
4. I had a real life coaching experience on stage that helped me see my limiting thoughts in the moment. That was awesome and life changing.
5. Outstanding speaker and content! Bring her back more often!
6. Best session attended.
7. Great strategies. Fabulous presentation.
8. Excellent presentation. One of the best so far in the conference. Very personable presenter really enjoyed the session.
9. Amazing, inspirational, moving, and brilliant. She helped me shift my thinking.
10. Presenter seemed to think that she was better than everyone else. Her personality turned me off.
While the feedback was mostly exceedingly positive, the criticism overtook my senses. It felt like a punch in the belly resulting in the following conversation that took place in my head immediately after reading #10:
“Better than everyone else??? Me??? How could ANYONE say that??? I teach people not to see themselves that way! Forget it, no one understands me. Why do I keep putting myself out there? For THIS kind of abuse? All I am trying to do is make a difference! What’s the point? I should just go home and call it a day. I am done with coaching.”
And then I called Allan (my husband) to tell him that 50% of the feedback I received was negative and that I suck as a speaker and that I should seriously consider some other line of work. Here’s what he said:
“Let’s do the math. How many people were in the audience? 780
How many people filled out an evaluation form? 424
How many negative evaluations did you get? 38
So less than 5% of your audience was less than satisfied? Hmmm – you are right, you should find another profession.” Then he went on to say the following:
“Here’s what I see – the overarching feedback was that you are incredible and they need more people like you. Now, let’s break down the negative feedback to see if we can learn anything…”
What Allan did for me is to neutralize the criticism and help me really understand the negative feedback so that I could make some tweaks to my presentation for next time.
Here’s what I discovered: when criticism comes my way, my “emotional resilience” muscles can use a little strengthening. So here I am, revealing my own personal vulnerability in order to get to the other side where criticism is something that I can hear, sort through, learn from, and take with a grain of salt. Luckily, I have an amazing husband who does not let me sit in the mire too long before kicking me in the butt demanding that I SNAP OUT OF IT!
It’s an honest question. Are YOU sensitive to criticism and how big of a role does it play in your performance (or lack thereof)? Do you take it personally when you receive less than stellar feedback? Does it drag you down into a dark hole a little longer than you’d like? Do you have anyone who can help you neutralize the criticism and turn it into something of value?