Think about the last time someone took a cheap shot at you. Do you remember exactly what was said? Do you remember how it made you feel in the moment? Do you remember how many people you told about it?
While you may not remember exactly what was said, chances are that you still remember how you felt. It’s how our brains work. We tend to remember how people treat us. And it’s likely that the person who took the cheap shot has no memory of it what so ever.
Interesting isn’t it? We tend to forget critical comments we make, but we remember critical comments that we receive.
We all make critical comments, at least on occasion. A little zing here and a little jab there, and a little sarcasm disguised as humor just for laughs. Before we know it, making critical comments has become a full-blown habit. A harmful habit that hurts people and destroys relationships.
Is it possible that you have a habit of making critical comments? We don’t see ourselves as other people see us you know. Would you like to broaden your self-awareness?
Select someone you trust to be honest with you. Ask him/her to keep track of your critical comments for 1 – 3 days. Schedule some private time to sit down and listen to the results. Just listen. Don’t explain or make excuses. When it’s over, just say “Thank you”.
If you don’t like what you hear, make a decision to change the habit. Experiment for 30 days.
Think before you speak – Try Marshall Goldsmith’s advice to decide if your critical comment is worth it. Before you speak, ask yourself:
- Will this comment help our customers?
- Will this comment help our company?
- Will this comment help the person I’m talking to?
- Will this comment help the person I’m talking about?
If the answer is no, don’t say it. Bite your tongue if necessary.
If you decide that your comment worth it, try these 3 tips:
Ask for permission – Instead of just blurting out your comment, ask something like, “Would you like my thoughts about this?”
Approach thoughtfully – As Stephen Covey taught us, begin with the end in mind. Imagine that your conversation will end up on Youtube.com. Approach it accordingly.
Ask for clarification – When emotions are tense (and usually they are in critical situations), it helps to assume that you are missing something. Start by asking something like, “Could you help me understand…”
Critical comments are nothing but knee jerk reactions to stressful situations. These tips will help you buy yourself some time to think before you speak. And sometimes, that’s all it takes. Give it a little time and some practice. You’ll be glad you did.