Strategic Teams Achieving Results

Avoid Criticism

Posted on April 30th, by Mary Elizabeth Murphy in 2009, Weekend Attitude Adjustment. 2 comments

criticism2_290x136_scaled_croppHello Weekend Attitude Adjustment Community!

Will you join me in a new challenge this week-end?  Do you or others think that you are “too critical”? Do you avoid people because of their constant criticism of you? Are you ready to focus your attention on your internal and external communication patterns this weekend and maybe for the next 30 days?

This may sound like  too much “work”, especially for the weekend.  However, it could be fun, really!

If you are ready to play – read on…

For an effective communication strategy and to avoid giving criticism, think – divide and conquer!

That is, separate observation from evaluation.

According to Marshall Rosenburg, Ph.D., author of Non-Violent Communication, A Language of Compassion, “when we combine an observation with an evaluation our words can be heard as criticism.”

Mixing our observations and evaluations is a recipe for disaster. The more we mix our observations with our evaluations of another person’s behavior, the less likely that person is going to be open to us. They will probably be less open to hearing our words, empathizing with our feelings or being receptive in any way to our intended message.

“We need to observe what we are seeing, hearing, or touching that is affecting our well being without mixing in evaluation,” said Rosenburg.

This is why it’s important to keep your observations specific to time and context. If you choose to utilize this language skill, you will increase the chances of conveying your message to the listener in the way in which you intended, and not as criticism. Below are some examples of observations and evaluations:

Observation and evaluation mixed together: “She won’t get her work in.”
Observation separate from evaluation: “She has a great amount of work and less than 2 days to complete it. (Observation) I don’t know if she will get her work in.” (Evaluation)

Observation and evaluation mixed together: “You are late.”
Observation separate from evaluation: “I see that you were not here at 9:00 a.m.” (Observation only)

Following these tips can help you separate your observations and evaluations:
 Be aware of when you generalize – using words like always, never, ever, whenever, etc.
 Don’t mix what you see with your opinion
 Be aware of labels, especially negative labels – lazy, stupid, brainy, egotistical, etc.

Even when we label someone by their socially accepted title we could be evaluating. For example, calling someone a “cook” can be considered an evaluation according to Rosenburg. The following stanza from a poem by Ruth Bebermeyer explains it this way,

“I’ve looked as hard as I can look
but never ever seen a cook;
I saw a person who combined
ingredients on which we dined,
A person who turned on the heat
and watched the stove that cooked the meat –
I saw those things but not a cook. Tell me, when you’re looking,
Is it a cook you see or is it someone doing things that we call cooking?”

I recommend a practice run in seeing how many evaluations or judgments you make in a particular situation. This weekend when you go to the mall, grocery store or any other public setting, observe how many “evaluations” you make over a 15-minute period. Does it make you wonder if the number of evaluations/judgments made during this period makes you an extremely judgmental person, average or below average? Think about how many evaluations you make when you are not making a conscious effort to pay attention to your evaluations/judgments.

Expand this practice run to a 30-day trial of actually speaking from observation without mixing in evaluation. Practice articulating observations separate from evaluations. Try this in both your personal and professional life.

The Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurti once remarked that observing without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence. Remember, the goal is not to ever have an evaluation. The goal is to separate your evaluation from your observation. With this in mind, you will be able to effectively communicate your message, which will be a win-win situation for you and the listener.

Please send us your results. It will be fun to share how this intentional effort benefits you and others!

Until next time… I remain or appear to remain…

Joyfully yours,

Mary Elizabeth

2 thoughts on “Avoid Criticism

  1. Marlene on said:

    Brilliant! I for one am too quick to “evaluate”. This has been printed for review again and again and will be my weekend goal. Thank you, Mar.
    Always my best – the other Mar

    • Hi Mars,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It is fun to tune your thinking to catch yourself “evaluating” and the challenge of changing your thinking. I find myself frequently presented with opportunities to practice this concept.

      The other Mars

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