Remarks and attacks sting all of us, but women more than men, because girls are taught from an early age to be softer, more compliant, more patient. How do you respond to criticism without losing your self-confidence?
HOW WOMEN ARE EVALUATED
It turns out that managers rate the way men and women work differently. A recent study in which managers of 28 companies evaluated subordinates revealed two major differences.
Female employees received several times as many negative comments as male employees. However, the majority of negative comments about female staff (76%) included criticism of a woman’s personality rather than her work (“too harsh”, “shouty”, “unkind”).
In contrast, only 2% of negative comments about male staff contained criticism of their personality
“On the one hand, women at work are traditionally expected to be nice, soft and everybody likes them,” says business coach and expert on female leadership Tara Moore, commenting on the findings. – On the other hand, in order to do their jobs competently, they have to make sometimes tough, unpopular decisions. It is not a pleasant sensation, as if you are walking over a tightrope all the time”.
According to Tara Moore, the study also shows that if a woman wants to do what she loves and get results, she has to get used to criticism – and be prepared for negative feedback not only about her work, but also about herself. “In my coaching practice, I often meet women who are afraid to voice ideas or take on an important project because they depend heavily on the approval or judgement of others,” she says.
WHY FEAR OF JUDGEMENT ARISES
Women are taught from childhood to be pleasant, nice and compliant. By adolescence, the typical girl has seen hundreds of movies, TV shows and commercials in which a woman’s fate depends not on her own decisions, but on how she is perceived by others. And the young woman will unwillingly learns the message: what other people think and say about us decides a lot.
For centuries, women of the weaker sex have not been able to ensure their own safety, either physically, by their own means, or with the help of the law or money.
“In patriarchal society, we could not rely on the law if we faced threats of violence, we did not have the financial means to escape or to protect ourselves and our children because we did not have the right to own property,” recalls the milestones of the struggle for women’s rights, Tara Moore.
This is how one of the basic survival strategies of the female half of humanity came to be – to try to be accepted.
It’s a reality many women around the globe still live in. We cringe in horror at disapproval, criticism, rejection, many feel their lives are threatened at such times, because for centuries, that has been the case.
HOW TO ACCEPT CRITICISM
The solution is to accept the inevitable: any worthwhile work, innovative thought, controversial decision entails not only praise, but also attacks, especially if you are a woman. And, unlike men, women are often criticised not for specific aspects of their work, but for their personalities – primarily their appearance. You need to consciously develop “thick-skinnedness” – a calm, expected reaction to criticism. Here are some ways of doing this.
1. Look for role models
Find women who admire you for the way they handle difficult situations. In a critical situation, imagine how she would behave and what she would say if she were you – it will give you strength.
For example, Hillary Clinton is hated by some and admired by others, but she has a way of putting her detractors in their place.
On one occasion, when a politician attended a press conference without makeup, glasses and a messy hairdo due to jet lag, the entire American press could not help but speculate about her appearance.
In an interview with CNN, the politician coolly deflected the attacks, saying, “I’ve reached an age where I feel incredibly liberated. If I want to put on glasses, I put them on. If I want to put my hair behind my ears, I put it back. You see, at some point it all stops mattering a lot – you don’t want to spend a lot of energy and time on nonsense. If other people care so much about how I look, well, let them care for a change.
2. Turn the tables
Instead of taking negative feedback personally, use it as a source of information about the person who gave it, his or her beliefs, interests and preferences.
Say five investors refusing to invest in your business project does not say anything about the quality of your business idea or your suitability to do business. It only tells you that these investors are looking for another project. What if, on the contrary, they liked your business presentation? Again, this does not increase your value as an entrepreneur – just that your interests are aligned.
In other words, any feedback is useful because it gives you an opportunity to learn about the people we want to attract
By rethinking your attitude to criticism in this way, you’ll learn to filter out useful information without reacting with violent emotion to praise or rejection.
3. Focus on what’s important
Renowned American comedy actress Tina Fey suggests to all working women: “When you are criticised for your looks, your age, just for being a woman, ask yourself the question, “Is this person standing between me and what I want to achieve?” If the answer is no, ignore his words and move on. That way you’ll save energy for your work and you won’t waste time on people who are worthless in your life.
4. Face your complexes
Often we feel intimidated by a certain kind of criticism that we have faced in the past – for example, many women are paralysed by rude attacks on their appearance. In that case, it is worth asking yourself: “Does this criticism in some way reflect what I think of myself? When and why did this negative image of myself appear? Does it reflect the truth?”
If a woman is petrified when she is told that she is not smart enough, she is probably doubting herself. If she feels hurt by remarks about her looks, she’s probably ashamed of her own body.
By finding the roots of complexes and replacing them with a more accurate view of ourselves in the present, we can free ourselves from the fear of criticism
Finally, another quote from Hillary Clinton about criticism. “I see too many young women around who treat themselves undeservedly harshly. They underestimate themselves. They take criticism to heart instead of analysing it without emotion.
You have to learn how to analyse criticism, because that is the only way you can get something out of it and not let it destroy you. You need to be flexible, resilient and resilient in order to keep moving forward, whatever personal setbacks, losses and insults come your way. A sense of humour towards yourself and others saves the day. Trust me, this knowledge doesn’t come down one morning like an epiphany. No, it is a process, working on yourself day after day.