Overcome your overconfidence bias

“There is nothing like success to blind one to the possibility of failure.” – Roger Lowenstein

Every day we hold onto certain kind of expectations about ourselves, others and about our circumstances. These expectations we hold about ourselves directly influence our attitudes, decisions, behaviours, perspectives, as well as interactions with others. To succeed in our goals and to achieve our objectives, we must have a realistic assessment of our expectations. Being confident that your expectations will be met is important in business or work and life in general. But confidence is not about having it all. Instead, it’s about being okay with whatever you have and using it to its best potential. However, If you don’t use it wisely, it turns into overconfidence which then turns against you. It is important not to be overconfident. For instance. being overconfident while making a decision, you may overlook something important or might not look at all because you are confident that you already know what to choose. 

You might be creative, hardworking, ambitious and might think you are much better in what you do. At the same time. you also might allow the confidence you gain from your talents to delude you into believing that you could do everything else to the same level of success in other areas. As a result, you become overconfident in your abilities. Such thinking can make you think that you’re invaluable to your company or in the work you do where in fact almost anyone could do your job. Research shows that we overestimate our precision of information that we have about a situation and thus tend to believe something is much more likely to occur than it really is. Such bias from overconfidence is quite prevalent where most of us believe that our judgments and decisions are better than they really are.

So, what is a overconfidence bias?

Overconfidence bias is in which people demonstrate unwarranted faith in their own intuitive reasoning, judgments or cognitive abilities. It is a tendency to hold a false and misleading assessment of our skills, knowledge, intellect or talent. You might come across such bias in yourself or in people around you in your personal or professional environments. You may see yourself a more capable than your colleagues, more knowledgeable or even ethical and talented.

What causes overconfidence bias?

Emotional and cognitive distortion that creates overconfidence can be a major hindrance to any form of success. Overconfidence bias might occur after recent success or because of a sense of self-importance. Sometimes it may be due to social pressure when the stakes are high as people tend to act on pretended knowledge as a preferred solution. It is also caused by doubt-avoidance, inconsistency-avoidance, incentives, denial and due to believing first and doubting later.

Sometimes, we all become victims of our own delusions of self-confidence where we begin to see ourselves valuable, honest and intelligent. We start viewing our successes as the result of our own efforts attributing it to our natural abilities thereby forgetting the others contributions or timing and other factors. We fail to recognise that skill in one area doesn’t always translate to skills in another. Each success confirms our heightened self-image creating overconfidence bias.

Overconfidence is something that can make us blind to the mistakes in our decisions and thought processes. It further manifests into overestimation where you overestimate your actual abilities, performance, the amount of control you have , or your chance of success. It also can manifest into overplacement where you believe that your position is higher than those of around you. Like for instance, you think you received higher score than your friend and in reality, your friend receives better scores than you do, in this situation, you have overplaced your scores. And it also manifests into overprecision when you are confident that you are correct.

Why overconfidence bias is bad for you?

Overconfidence affects your judgments and decisions in different ways. Here are some ways in which it does.

Over ranking

Overconfidence affects a people’s judgment as it relates their own personal performance as higher than it actually is. Generally, most of us think we are better at something than we really are and we are less likely to admit when we are not as good as we would like to be. This can cause problems as it can make you feel more valuable within a team or group or workplace and may end up taking too many risks. This creates a pattern for failure as your skills do not match up to your beliefs.

Illusion of control

This happens with the idea that if we can quantify something, we can measure it, understand it, and thus manage it.

Believing that you have more control over a situation than you actually do leads to you taking unnecessary risk, or inability to assess the risk involved in the situation. Also, this can lead to wrong decisions and choices in both personal and professional matters. Failure to accurately assess risk leads to failure in managing and accomplishing your goals.

Desirability effect

The desirability effect happens when people overestimate the odds of something happening simply because the outcome of a situation is desirable. This is also a type of overconfidence bias. Many times, this leads to many mistakes and faulty behaviours simply because we believe our desired outcome is more probable just because that’s the outcome we want.

Timing optimism

This occurs when we are too optimistic about how quickly we can perform a task and underestimate how long it takes to get things done. One outcome of over-confidence is missed deadlines and delayed projects on account of the planning fallacy. When is the last time that you finished any task or project early? And this leads to creating unrealistic project plans in hopes that the future will somehow be different than the present.

Overconfidence bias can do a lot of damage to your relationships, career, financial or investing choices, business and your productivity levels. Overconfidence bias leads to many errors in various walks of our daily lives. It becomes a major hindrance when it comes to improving your understanding of a situation.

• You misjudge your value, opinion, beliefs or abilities or you may oversimplify things.

• You may not prepare properly for a situation or may get into a situation that you are not equipped to handle.

• You may procrastinate to failure because of your timing optimism.

• Overestimating your abilities causes missed deadlines, shoddy performance and stress at the cost of your money, time, and your well-being.

• You may take excessive risks and make decisions that are not beneficial to you or your team.

• Being overconfident can affect your work, attitude and behaviour towards others.

• Leads to unreal expectations and makes you more vulnerable to disappointment.

How to avoid overconfidence bias?

Biased way of looking at a situation is considered as the most pervasive and potentially damaging of all the cognitive biases to which most of us fall victim. Almost all of us suffer from some kind of overconfidence bias in various situations. Here are few ways to stay unbiased.

• Past successes inflates our perception of our own abilities. When your self-image becomes tied to your last success, you may tend to overlook your mistakes and become judgmental. Success in past or expertise is no guarantee of future success. Just because you had a string of correct decisions has no bearing on the one you face now. Treat each new decision as if it were your first. Discuss the matter objectively and make a thorough assessment of the risk involved.

• Overconfidence by its very nature, distorts your own image of reality. It is important to recheck your facts about a situation. Disregard your initial judgment about a situation and check the validity of your assumptions. Develop habits and systems that provide feedback to stay connected to reality. Each success brings you closer to overconfidence and complacency. Cultivating a realistic attitude towards your successes and failures prevents you from untoward consequences.

• With overconfidence bias, you tend to ignore criticism and you might get into a false sense of security. Acknowledging your mistakes instead of blaming others helps you clear your heads of any hubris that might cloud your judgment. Reflecting as to what plans worked and what decisions yielded good results and what decisions ended up wrong, you can use your mistakes and failures as learning opportunities. When you get criticised, instead of defending, deal with it constructively to help improve yourself.

• As we accomplish more and more things, it is easy to believe that what we are doing is right. Trying to control every situation or believing that your contribution to a decision is more valuable than it actually is or trying to handle everything yourself or insisting that your way is the only way is a recipe for disaster. Recognising the role that others had in your success will keep you grounded and focusing on your specific role in failures will remind you that you have areas that you can improve.

• Look at multiple perspectives and think through the implication and consequences of a belief or an action. Alternate perspectives push you out of your comfort zone and force you to think critically and you may discover better way of doing things or improve yourself instead of giving into your overconfidence bias. Healthy discussions always give you new perspectives and let’s you see ways of doing things or improving yourself. So when making decision, be humble, seek out new perspectives and be well-informed to take into consideration of all the factors and risks involved.

• During our decision-making process or while making a choice, we first assess the familiarity of the options or opinions and search for facts in order to construct an explanation about why the familiar option is true. An explanation forms in our mind that really seems right and we tend to focus on that first familiar option which may not be right. Instead of option-fixation, make a best possible guess, then assume that guess is inaccurate, and then generate plausible reasons for why the guess was inaccurate. Research shows that overconfidence is reduced after listing the arguments that contradict the reasoning that lead to the guess and often the more estimates that are averaged the better, so long as they are based on different reasoning. This will minimise risk. Keeping your thinking in present instead of outcome lets you focus on what is needed right now and much more realistic and more achievable.

• The inherent state of overconfidence is strong when projecting our beliefs about our future. We tend to overestimate our ability to predict the time frame as we tend to put higher probability on desired events than undesired events. Work is always better done when more time is spent on it. Try to give yourself a bit more time than your first estimate. Double it if you can for completion of your tasks or projects. The more time you give yourself, the less chance you take of missing deadlines.

To conclude,

We all fall victim to moments and sometimes stretches of over-confidence which often end with disappointment or failure. And yet, despite what we think we have learned for next time, we continue to be over-optimistic about our abilities and the state of the future. The same mistakes occur again and again. We often take into account only our planning and generally ignore external factors and tend to indulge in over-assessment of our expectations and capabilities. We rate our competence too high and plunge into overconfidence bias. If over-confidence is not constantly checked, it leads to poor outcomes, failures and disappointments. To overcome this bias, you need to install objectivity into your systems and thinking. Keep yourself responsible and objective and try the above techniques to consciously confront overconfidence bias before it distorts your view of reality.

Practice being non-judgmental

“You May judge others only according to your knowledge of yourself.”- Kahlil Gibran

We all have a natural innate tendency to be drawn to those similar to us and judge or criticise those who are different. Whenever we come across people who have different values, lifestyles or preferences, we tend to categorise them in a negative way or either criticise or think that they are wrong. Compartmentalizing, better known as judging, aids us in defining who and what we are. Sometimes, we judge a whole group of people by the action of one individual and make assumptions about their behaviour based on single person’s actions. Many of us are aware that prejudice or being judgmental is wrong, but get trapped eventually into biased thought patterns. In order to become non-judgmental and to be aware of our preconceived notions about others, we need to change our view of others and how we ourselves.

What is being judgmental?

Being judgmental is the tendency to criticise or form an opinion or to come to a conclusion about something too quickly without totally being aware of the person or the situation involved. To infer, think or hold as an opinion, or assess or conclude without knowing all the facts leads to assumptions. These assumptions can be on a person’s behaviour, morals, actions or beliefs. Assumptions often lead to inaccurate judgment. Even if your opinions are justified, criticising others ususally makes them wary and defensive of their faults or mistakes.

Jumping to conclusions rather easily, making up your mind before you hear all the facts, or not even keen on listening to what others are saying, all these traits indicate that you are being judgmental. While no one necessarily likes to admit that they evaluate and label others, sometimes it happens so subconsciously that we don’t even realize we’re judfing. Because judgments are ingrained so deeply that it can be hard to break the habit of labeling others or generalizing a person or situation.

“Judging a person does not define who they are. It defines who you are.”– Wayne Dyer

Why do we judge others?

We all like judging others and pass our judgments of others very publicly. It feels harmless to pass our judgment of others as it can give you an instant high and create a temporary sense of power and make you feel good. But, there’s a downside to us being judgmental. It causes unhappiness, guilt, and negativity. We almost become opinionated about many things and people. Due to increased access to one another, we develop a judgmental attitude on just about everything and everyone, from choices, tastes, habits, views and beliefs.

The main reason we become judgmental is because of our own perception of ourselves in comparison to others and could also be a sign of deeper negativity. Here are some reasons why we judge others. We judge

  • When we are ignorant of what the other person is going through.
  • When we don’t understand the situation.
  • When we have unrealistic expectations of people.
  • When we are being superior to others.
  • Being self-centered and not being grateful or curious.

Being judgmental of people and situations only signifies your discontentment and the more you judge, the more you fear being judged. This undermines your self-esteem and makes you turn to your inner-critic giving rise to fallacies and biases. According to a research, the more positively someone described the other person, the more likely they were to be happy, kind-hearted, and emotionally stable themselves. Those who are judgmental were harsh and more likely to be narcissistic and unstable.

Why you should stop being judgmental

Being prejudiced can be bad for your well-being. You sabotage your confidence and potential by being too judgmental of yourself and others. Here is why you should stop being judgmental

  • Being prejudiced, you may stop yourself from trying something new because you already come to conclusions that either you wouldn’t like to do or may not be worth doing a particular task. These conclusions may or may not be true. Instead, by being non-judgmental, you can open yourself to new experiences and try doing something new which you may eventually find it exciting.
  • You cannot build better relations if you are always judgmental as others feel hesitant to share everything about them because you either ridicule them or judge them. However, by being non-judgmental, you create a safe environment to share and they can trust you to do so and can build better relationships with others.
  • Being judgmental leads to non-acceptance of things as they are and makes you resistant to change or adopt yourself to new and different environments and beliefs.  Being non-judgmental leads to acceptance of things as they are and you can develop more resilience to other people’s judgment of you.  This way, you don’t get weigh down by trying to figure out the opinions of others.
  • By frequently forming conclusions or judgments of others, you end up creating lot of negativity in yourself and in those around you. You cannot attain freedom of being your true self and also cannot see others inherent true self. You cannot find your inner-peace as it makes you frustrated and unhappy.

How do you become non-judgmental?

If we realize how habitually we come judgmental, we can try and unlearn that behavior. We cannot solve a problem or help any situation form place of judgment. One of the best changes you can make to help yourself be happier is by learning to let go of your judgment of others.  Here are few ways to let go of your prejudice and become non-judgmental.

Develop awareness of others before you get judgmental about them. Sometimes we grow unhappy with the things we notice in our friends or kids or co-workers because we judge them for what they are doing. It may be their unhealthy habits, or behavior and so on. we start labeling them without understanding what they are going through. We are all human. We must remind ourselves that we all have our own weaknesses; we all make wrong decisions.There might be other reasons behind their such behavior, maybe it is their health problem, either they are feeling stuck, or scared. Focus on their positives to try and understand the reason behind and get curious in knowing what they are going through.

Be aware of your judgmental thoughts. Explore how being judgmental about others makes you feel. If you feel angry or dismissive of someone, if you’re complaining of someone, commenting or gossiping about them, these are the signs that you are judging. Pay attention to such thoughts and instead of coming to conclusions, ask yourself, “why are you judging?”, “What unrealistic expectations you have about others or yourself?’, “what can you appreciate in other person?”, “what would you do if you were going through similar situation?”, “Where is this thought coming from?”, ‘Is this thought fair?’ or ‘Are you making any assumptions?’. Once you understand the irrational nature of your judgmental thoughts, you will be able to actively challenge your assumptions and can see your prejudice irrational.

Figure out the roots of your judgmental thoughts. Look for some past beliefs you have that are influencing your preconceived opinions. Past prejudiced beliefs which you may have learned overtime may be the reason behind you being judgmental. Your true self is a combination of natural tendencies, experiences you have had and the choices you have made. When you have deep-seated beliefs about a group of people or a person, you begin to see those beliefs reflected in being judgmental towards others. Checking whether your beliefs are really true can help you to handle situations that are against your beliefs. This way, you can still respect the person who holds different views and beliefs than yours.

Be mindful of thoughts that are coming to your mind and words that you speak. it is okay to disagree with the thoughts or opinions expressed by other people. But it doesnt give you the right to judge them just because you dont agree with them. You must be mindful of how you respond, represent, and react to others. When you feel the urge to judge or speak in an unloving way,  practice to pause for a moment, and rephrase your internal thoughts before you communicate it to them. Dont deem someone’s actions as bad or good and avoid using words that are overtly negative or condescending.  The communication must be positive or at the very least not ill-spirited.

Consider others perspective before judging. Everyone has their personality that affects their behaviour. Before leaping to judgment or evaluating someone else’s actions or personality, place yourself in their shoes and understand where they are coming from and their perspective. Everyone makes choices according to their life circumstances. Not everyone has same experiences you have had. You must accept the fact that everyone has a free will to decide what they want to do and how they want to live. It is all relative to their story, values, and beliefs.  Be empathetic and look for basic goodness in everyone. By developing a helpful outlook to others, you can practice being non-judgmental towards them.

Finally, exposing yourself to different places, cultures, and people, you can begin to break your prejudiced thought patterns and you can adopt alternative ways of thinking. Sometimes what we consider normal in one place or culture may be different in other. The more you are able to accept the differences, the more you can practice being non-judgmental.

Conclusion

Judging is rooted deep within all of us. We pass unrighteous judgment on others based on our observations and interactions which creates the tone for why we place people into categories. But it is always possible to avoid our judgment of others if we practice being non-judgmental in our day to day behaviours and interpretations. Next time when you find yourself judging others, question yourself “am I judging them” and if you are, remind yourself of above mentioned strategies to break the cycle of judging.

“Be curious, not judgmental.” – Walt Whitman

How to build new empowering beliefs

“As we develop new beliefs about who we are, our behaviour will change to support the new identity.” – Tony Robbins

Our beliefs shape our identity by influencing our behaviour.  For instance if  you don’t believe that you can achieve your goals, you don’t even try to act in the direction of achieving them or might even give up on them really quickly. We always do things in the direction of our faith and belief.  If you believe that you can be of what you want to be, you can work towards changing yourself either by imroving your skills, or  developing new habits, or work on other aspects of your life in order to be that person. On the other hand, if you believe that nothing will ever change or there is nothing you can do to change it, you continue to do same old things and this will become your self limiting prophecy.  So, your belief system has lot of impact on your success or lack of success. For instance if you believe that you’re capable, competent, and deserving, you’re more likely to look for opportunities that could help you get there.

Doing what you believe to be true can bring out some of your inner leadership abilities and can take you nearer to your greatest achievements. For instance, a person who initiates change believes he/she knows where that change will lead to. In other words your belief system is the invisible force behind your behaviour, be it your habits, or personality, or any decisions that you make, or the way you communicate or react to anything.

Importance of your beliefs

Your beliefs also influence your health behaviours. Research shows that people are more likely to engage in healthy habits if they have a greater sense of self-belief. A stronger self-beleif can help you in dealing uncertainty and anxiety thereby maintaining your emotional well-being. Here is why your beliefs play an important role in your personal and professional lives.

Beliefs provide clarity. The moment you believe in things you value, you find your way to achieve them.

Beliefs empower you to overcome obstacles. If you don’t believe in something that makes your goals worth striving for, you will lack the enthusiasm ṭo overcome failure or difficulties.

Beliefs take you in the right direction. If you don’t know what you believe to be true, you’ll tend to drift from your purpose and priorities.

Beliefs influence your choices and decisions you make.

Beliefs will determine your expectations and perceptions of your reality.

Beliefs encourage your critical and creative thinking skills.

Beliefs determine your goals and how you about accomplishing them.

• Your beliefs form the foundations of your self-concept and how you see yourself.

Understanding your belief system

Beliefs are conditioned perceptions that are built upon your experiences of past and present together with other factors such as your personality, habits, and so on. Some of your beliefs are based on your interpretations, emotions, or thoughts which you judge to be true and some come from your friends, family, and environment. Deeply ingrained beliefs act as commands to your nervous system and uses them as shortcuts for pattern recognition. When we process new information, we try to fit the new information into an already existing belief system thus leading to distortions, biases and errors. We generalise and make assumptions based on similarity to previous recognised patterns while drawing conclusions.

We hold on to most of our beliefs to fulfil our needs, whether that is related to feeling loved, secure, or sense of belonging, or to develop our self-esteem. We experience less stress, fear, and anxiety holding on to our belief system. But when your belief system is not aligned with the goals and objectives you would like to achieve, you often feel limited, stuck and unfulfilled. This is because when you have a deeply ingrained pre-existing belief, which is limiting, your mind will find evidence to support that belief.

But if overtime, you are exposed to empowering beliefs, you will start to question your existing disempowering beliefs. This is more like water dripping on a rock where the shift in your existing belief system will happen but takes long time. Instead if you consciously make an effort to transform your old beliefs that no longer serve your purpose, the process can be faster even with the ones that you held dear or which were once part of your identity.

Why is it hard to change your belief system

Sometimes to learn something, you might have a belief problem. When you come across a different environment or circumstance which exposes you to a different belief system, you face resistance to get adopted to new ones.  Also, a sudden disruption of your old beliefs can effect your sense of self and your emotional stability. This is because we don’t work towards changing our awareness or beleif. Our life changes, but our beliefs remain constant.

It is hard changing from your prior beliefs as your opinions turn into deeply ingrained beliefs due to repeated situations that prove their legitimacy. Over time they grow more strong, consistent and stable and get intertwined with how you define yourself by preserving a constant self-image. As a result, you become highly resistant to change whenever you are exposed to a highly different view point as compared to your own belief system.

Also as people invest a lot of personality in their belief system, or structure their whole life around a belief, changing their mind through disproving previously held beliefs can make them experience emotions such as anger, anxiety, confusion, and frustration.

If you have a set of strong beliefs that are in conflict with your goals, or new ideas, or new beliefs, then you will likely to sabotage your efforts in moving forward in achiving them. This is because when you face situations where your pre-existing belief system gets so strongly threatened, you experience negative emotions making you think there is something wrong with you.  You become emotionally entangled with ideas you come to believe are true and this causes you ṭo pay more attention to ideas that support your current belief and disprove ideas that contradict your current belief. But it doesnt mean that your beleifs cannot be replaced or can be stabilised once replaced. Beleifs have a capacity to reach a state of equilibrium, can adapt and repeat themselves.

How to build new beliefs into your belief system?

When you embrace the process to build new beliefs into your belief system,  your view point can evolve into something very different than what it used to be. That is when real self-change happens. So when you are exposed to new ideas and beliefs, instead of being anxious and confused, accept that period of time as it is. It may be very well a period during which your belief system is restructuring due to things you have experienced or ideas you have been exposed ṭo. Your belief system is striving to adapt itself to the new conditions and towards a state of stability. You can use this time to expose yourself to the right ideas and right environment which will help you to go in the direction of your desired goals. You can use this time to be reflective by asking yourself ‘what resistance are you feeling while thinking about achieving your goal?’ Or ‘which beliefs are holding you back to achieve your goal?’ Or ‘which beliefs you now started to question?’ Or which new beliefs you can expose yourself to progress in the direction of your goals?’ Here is how you can build your new empowering beliefs in to your belief system.

Reframe your limiting beleifs. Each of your belief exists because it sees a purpose or it is protecting you from something. But not all of them might be purposeful. Most of the times, you exaggerate based upon how you visualise,hear, and feel things internally. To move forward from such pre-existing limiting beliefs, you have to reframe your limiting beliefs. By doing this, you can convince yourself that the value you derive from your new empowering belief is mich more and thus can align with your goals.

Create new beliefs that are aligned with the goals you would like to achieve. Choose a new empowering belief according to the goal that you want to achieve, the person you want to become, and the values you want to represent. By asking yourself how this belief can empower you in the long-term or how it can change your life for the better, you can change your old beliefs systems and create new beliefs that serve your purpose.

Strengthen your new beliefs.As you work through your belief transformation, you must be open to possibilities, new perspectives, and you must accept alternate view points. Be receptive to new beliefs and willingness ṭo adapt to changing conditions and circumstances can help you strengthen your new belief system. Adopt new habits, decisIons,and actions that support your new beliefs. By building the evidence in favour of your empowering belief you can strengthen and change your mindset.

Condition yourself to new belief. You can do this by making necessary changes to your environment, thoughts, communication patterns, values and so on to support your new empowering belief. If you still face resistance to your new belief, you will find it difficult to adopt it. Asking yourself whether your thoughts and perspectives are in alignment with your new belief, or how must you change other aspects of your life to integrate new beliefs successfully into your life can help you to adjust to your new belief system.

Finally, Get into the habit of using your new empowering belief until it begins to feel familiar. Stay flexible in your approach and make corrections when required. Your new belief might need some alternations and this you can figure out only when you begin to take proactive action towards the attainment of your goals by puttinag them to use.

Conclusion

As you read this, take some time to reflect upon your belief systems.

What are the new beliefs that you want to create in your life?

Which beliefs are disempowering your self-change?

Which empowering beliefs you can build that will help you in the process of achieving your cherished goals?

What evidences you can look for that support your new beliefs?

By taking conscious control over your beliefs, you can integrate your empowering thoughts into your belief system.

Related links:

https://sscascades.org/2019/01/05/reframe-your-limiting-beliefs/

Deal with your criticism constructively

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” – Winston Churchill

Criticism and confrontational situations arise everyday. You may not be able to avoid other people’s criticism of you, but you always have a choice as how to respond to those. There are times when you feel that almost everyone is against you and our balance of temper depends upon others, just as others depend on us. Such situations cause uneasiness. This is natural because of our expectations and we feel hurt and start brooding about the criticism we face. Criticism if not handled properly can really create stressful and unpleasant working environment. Being criticised causes most of us to feel poorly about ourselves and can lower our self-esteem and productivity as we devote more time and energy dealing with it and are less focused on important things.

According to science, there are two portions of our brain that dictate how we emotionally process and respond to criticism. The amygdala plays a huge role in our fight or flight response, which is why negative reviews or feedback from others make us feel truly threatening and create a negative bias. Unpleasant remarks and experiences stick with us so much more than the pleasant ones.

When faced with criticism, not everyone deals with it in the same way. There isn’t one size fits all responses. Some instantly know its not personal, some get defensive, some may feel completely crushed by even the most minimal feedback. Here are some ways people deal with the negative feedback.

• Some people seem to accept criticism rather well on the surface while mentally they put themselves down by being overly hard on themselves.

• Some of them take negative feedback very personally. However, they deflect the blame back on others by challenging or arguing against as a means of convincing themselves that criticism is unjust.

• Some feel put down by the negative remarks, but they aren’t beating themselves up and aren’t deflecting blame onto the person giving them. They simply want to know the reason and what they could do to change critic’s mind.

• Some choose to defend themselves against criticism and exhibit a defensive reaction to negative feedback. However, they don’t argue and they likely think that their critic is somewhat misguided and are fine to leave it at that.

• Some get sensitive to negative feedback and tend to turn that into anger or feelings of inadequacy and react in way to quickly seek validation from others.

Feeling bad about being criticised is totally natural and unavoidable, but allowing it to effect our productivity and happiness can be often detrimental. We are not well equipped to handle negative feedback positively and fail often to deal with it smartly. However, criticism, if you learn to face it openly and learn to handle it in a more positive and constructive manner, can be a pathway to your progress and improvement. Managing negative feedback constructively creates better interpersonal relationships and can grow your leadership effectiveness. Here are certain ways to turn criticism into constructive tool for your individual success and not to let it affect you negatively.

Do not ‘defend’ yourself

When we are criticised, our most common instinct is to defend ourselves. Resist proving yourself right every time and focus on what is going on. Address it with curiosity and not as accusation. Even when you disagree, listen to what the other person has to say and think it over. Resist the urge to focus on the minor elements of what’s being said and instead focus on the major implication of the criticism. There may be things you can learn and benefit from if you consider the issue in larger perspective. Getting defensive takes away your emotional control and limits your ability to respond thoughtfully.

Know your ‘negative self’

Critical comments about yourself can activate a deeply held negative beliefs and your insecurities. You tend to overreact because it activates your negative belief as you are sensitive to that particular issue. Criticism may lead to anger, bitterness, stress, resentment, self-doubt, and pity. By becoming familiar about them can help you overcome these feelings that gets triggered.

Don’t take it personally

Many of us take criticism more personally than we should. It is essential to separate criticism from your sense of self. Learn not to view it as about who you are as a person , but rather as feedback about an individual action or a particular situation. Always learn to look at the context from an objective stand. The disagreements you have with others is often due to different views and perceptions. If you can learn to view it as feedback about something you did and not about who you are, you will be able to take it less personally and can respond accordingly.

Go to the ‘source’

Identify the source that triggered the criticism or try to have a conversation with the person criticising. If the person delivering the criticism is prone to criticising others unreasonably, or being egotistical, or has unpredictable behavioural-pattern, then you need not take their feedback seriously. However, if the person delivering criticism is stable, supportive and trustworthy, take stock of the criticism and explore it further. Try to have a conversation and get to the bottom of it. Getting to the source keeps you in proper perspective.

Respond calmly

It can be very unpleasant when someone finds fault with you. But If you react emotionally to what’s been said, or if you go into fight mode, it only takes you out of your rational behaviour and it is better not to respond. Take a step back emotionally so that you can respond calmly and use simple response to acknowledge that you have heard their opinion. Take few minutes out and breathe in a relaxed way to bring down your stress response so that you can respond calmly.

Look for the ‘positive’

Always look at what you can learn from the situation. If there’s anything the situation is helping you to learn or is it in anyway serving as an opportunity for your growth. Sometimes it might help you to learn the need to be more resilient or patient or to learn to stand up for yourself or to take responsibility for the behaviours you have that invited criticism from others. Be focused on the positive aspects of the situation.

Strengthen your positive ‘self’

Agree with any valid part of the criticism that is true. If there are elements that are not true, state your differences. If you are brought down by someone else’s unjust criticism, consider working on your self-esteem, try to reduce your interaction with someone who regularly criticises you. If it is someone whom you can’t avoid, try being more matter of fact with them, or, ideally, withdraw your need for their approval or validation.

Say ‘No’ to negative self-talk

Negative self-talk can be damaging to your self-esteem and can become a biggest bully. Don’t let your inner critic demean you and lower your self-worth. Ask yourself the question: would you put up with a person saying negative things about you? If you wouldn’t tolerate that tone from someone, then why put up with from yourself? Get positive perspective of you as a person or your achievements and focus on them when your inner critic tries to break you down.

Don’t over-communicate

If you get into disagreements or confrontational situations, don’t engage in too much talk or debate. Try to exit from the situation with ease. Know when to quit the conversation. Adopt strategies that regulate your emotions before negativity takes you over. Develop an ability to put away the unpleasant experience and get on with new approach, in other words, have the ability to bounce back and explain your stance or take on that particular issue later.

Straighten your own attitudes

When you feel or think that you are off the target with someone or you think that he or she disapproves of you, there may be nothing wrong with you. It could be the other person is simply drawing upon his or her own past experiences or even highly suspicious of others in his or her dealings with others. Understand person’s motivation for being unfairly critical. Is he stressed? Insecure? Unhappy to change?In such cases, attitude to your own self is important. If you feel someone’s criticism of you is unfair, don’t be afraid to say so. Be irrespective of others’ unjust criticism. Even though you’re the target, it is more often about them than you. Try to view it in broader perspective.

Ask open-ended questions

Asking open-ended questions to those who criticise you will not only make their feedback valuable, but also allows you to learn more about why they viewed the action or the situation the way they did. Asking open-ended questions like “Tell me more…,” “what is the impact of that?” Asking a series of ‘why?’ questions is the best way to know their perspective and makes you better equipped to handle the situation in future. You can facilitate a more open conversation with your critic and can end the conversation on good terms.

Finally, pay attention to the criticism you face. Take action in order to improve yourself if the criticism is because of your faults and weaknesses. View it as learning opportunity. Instead of feeling bad about your mistakes and any criticism that may have resulted from them, accept them and view them objectively. This way, you will be better prepared to deal with similar situations in the future.

Conclusion

The next time you come across criticism, remember what you learned and take a suitable approach, don’t let anger get in the way. Respond in cool, calm and reasonable manner. Trust your instinct, if its something worth fighting for. Be assertive and firm, but don’t be demanding or aggressive. If the criticism has resulted because of your mistakes, learn from them and move on.