“You’re wrong” builds a wall. “Help me understand” opens a door.
I’m not the biggest fan of running, but when it comes to my work-life, I like to run pretty fast. That said, as a leader, pausing for any reason can feel like being frozen in a progress glacier. Sure, glaciers are beautiful, but they don’t move too fast. As a leader, that causes me a lot of tension.
Here’s what I’ve learned: There are many, many places where taking a moment to pause and ponder proves helpful. For me, one of the best places to pause is when I face criticism.
My natural instinct to negative feedback is to engage all of my defense systems. I find myself wanting to disagree, argue and prove others wrong. Of course, when their feedback is supportive or positive, I never think they are wrong—but that’s a different post.
Criticism is hard to hear. Sure, some negative feedback is unwarranted, but some is usually spot on. Some comes from people we respect, while some comes from people we don’t even know. Either way, learning to pause in the face of criticism has helped me in three distinct ways:
1. Pausing helps me better understand:
When I pause rather than immediately respond, it helps me understand other’s position and opinion. A quick response to a criticism is typically not an accurate response, because emotional responses are, well—emotional responses. Pausing before responding helps me create a conversation, leading to understanding and connection. “You’re wrong” builds a wall, whereas “help me understand” opens a door.
2. Pausing helps me evaluate my heart:
This one hurts, but is so vital to me personally. Pausing before responding allows me to evaluate the condition of my heart. What comes out of our mouth is constructed in our heart, and pausing helps me deconstruct anything unhealthy and begin building something of worth. Also, pausing before responding helps me evaluate the heart of my critic. And that’s just as important.
3. Pausing helps me consider the source:
I believe there is something to learn in every criticism, but when we consider the source of the feedback, it helps me learn even more. A critique from a close friend is going to play differently than a critique from an unknown social media follower. Pausing helps me realize who I’m listening to and therefore allows me to decipher what can be learned.
As a leader, communicator, father, husband and friend, pausing helps me process and make progress. Growth is a process, so pausing allows the process to take root and flourish. It is so easy to move right past feedback—especially negative feedback. Pausing helps ensure I slow down and really listen, all creating space to grow.
How have you seen the power of a pause play out when facing a critic?
This article originally appeared here.