I rarely feel totally comfortable and qualified to share my opinion on a subject. But if I was ever going to feel like I has something worthwhile to offer it would be this on handling criticism. That’s not because I’m an expert either. I’ve just gotten this one wrong so much that I’m able to spot when somethings off. Not being able to handle criticism and conflict was the cause of my failure in ministry on my first go around. It took six years of work by God (through secular management) to get me to the point where I could be most effective for Him in the Church. I’m now able to look back on those three years of failure and six years 0f growing and see His hand-prints all over my life. Here’s a few things I’ve picked up along the way. Though they are not in order of importance, they really do flow in order from one to the next.
First, even if the criticism is meant to be personal, don’t take it personally. NOTHING positive will result from that, ever. If you receive criticism (especially as a leader) it’s most likely that you’re being criticized for what you stand for or a decision that you’ve made. That’s not personal. That type (of criticism) is directly related to your role or position that you occupy.
Second, don’t get defensive. Another way of saying this – don’t build up a wall, set up camp behind it and start tossing hand grenades over it. This will lead to immediate conflict and potential damage to the relationship. Defensiveness is really a sign of immaturity and lack of accountability. Those are traits that we should definitely avoid.
Third, LISTEN to what the other person has to say. By actively listening to the persons’ concerns (nice word for criticism) you are validating them and communicating to them that their opinion matters to you and that they matter to you. And in the process you are earning respect and building trust.
Fourth, sit in their seat and see it from their perspective. Chances are, you’ll realize that they really do have something to offer you in terms of improving and growing. It’s rare that a person is just blowing hot air, wanting to be difficult and really has nothing valuable to offer. Most of the time, people have valid concerns and by listening to them you can learn, grow and improve yourself and likely the situation or organization that you’re both involved in.
Fifth, be grateful that the person chose to bring their criticism to you. Don’t think for a moment that Satan wasn’t encouraging them to take it to everyone else but you. Now, instead of just being part of a problem that you may know nothing about, you can be part of a solution to one. That’s definitely something to be grateful for. Don’t forget to express your gratitude to the person. If the person is there with pure motives, this type of reaction will win them over. If their motives are questionable, this type of reaction will blow them away (because they are probably ready for a fight).
Sixth, and most important, pray together. For all my deficiencies and failures, I’ve never once made things worse by asking the other person to pray with me.
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