Psychologist Explains Why We Naturally Switch Off In Face Of Criticism
Ahh yes, the dreaded performance review.
No one likes going into the big man’s (or woman’s) office to get analyzed on their entire productivity for their given company.
But think about what you’re really told in that meeting.
It’s pretty much always average or just above average. Companies rarely tell you that you’re achieving at the very height of your abilities or that you’re at the bottom of the pile.
They don’t want to make you feel too bad about yourself, but also don’t want you thinking you’re the king of the castle.
But, what if it really didn’t matter what anyone told you? That you’ve already made up your mind about anything and everything about your performance and any criticism will be basically ignored?
That’s what U.K. psychologist and lecturer at Aston University Robert Nash has suggested in his column for the BBC.
Titled, “Why even the best feedback can bring out the worst in us” Nash’s essay goes into the idea that when almost anyone in an authority position gives us advice, we choose to ignore it or repackage it in a way that best suits us.
And we’re extremely competitive with other people, but willing to find any reason that we’re better than someone else, even when all signs point to the fact that they’re performing better than us.
From Nash’s article,
“When we hear that we have performed worse than other people, our common reaction is to point to those people’s shortcomings and away from our own. ‘She may achieve more than me’ – you might argue – ‘but I have more friends, and a better personality too.’
While you may think, “yeah I’m confident in my own abilities, so what?” We are actually more sure of ourselves, and more critical of others, when there is literal proof in the pudding that we’re being out-performed.
“It isn’t unusual to exaggerate our own admirable qualities and our rivals’ flaws, of course, but research shows that we do this far more when we learn that our rivals have outperformed us. And although it might sound spiteful, this can be a highly effective way of maintaining and validating our positive self-regard in the face of failure.”
It’s good to be confident in yourself, but being able to take criticism will only help you.
Nash suggests throwing on some ’emotional armor’ in anticipation of criticism.
“So if we want to be more receptive to unwanted news, it might help to put on some emotional armour beforehand, ensuring that our positive self-regard can stay intact regardless of whether the news is ultimately good or bad. In fact, maybe another part of the problem is that we allow ourselves to treat feedback as unwanted in the first place.”
Constructive criticism can be extremely helpful, so build up some thick skin. It will make you a better man.