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Hearing Criticism from Others

"I'm rubber, you're glue whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!"

Do you remember this defensive playground taunt?

When name-calling or criticism come you're way and some part of you literally believes their true, they stick and, of course, they hurt. When no part of you believes the criticism, they bounce off and you can hear that what the person is saying is really about their own feelings and needs.

At first when you receive an incoming jackal that sticks, you likely find yourself reacting. Either you turn your jackal ears in and agree about how bad or wrong you are or you turn your jackal ears out and say how bad or wrong the other person is.

Most people flip their ears in and out, feeling alternately, depressed - angry, depressed - angry, . . .

When you have any reaction (by reaction I mean a sudden clenching of the body, heart, and mind) at all to what someone is saying, the first thing to do is ask, "What am I telling myself? What am I making this mean?" Reactivity lets you know that a jackal show has begun in your mind. If you can get front row seats to this show, your chances of intervening are much higher.

Take the time to stop and watch your show rather than moving on to the next distraction, or even worse, starting to speak from your reactivity.  Whether you are at work or at home, take a timeout. Bathrooms are great places for timeouts.

During this timeout you call on your calm and nurturing inner parent to dialogue with your jackals. Here's an example of a dialogue I recently had with a jackal of mine that was stimulated by a conversation with someone I respect.

Jackal: You're worthless.

My inner parent: I'm guessing you're scared jackal.

Jackal: Yes. (already with this single line of empathy I could feel my body start to relax).

My inner parent: I'm guessing you think it will somehow be helpful if I believe what you say. How do you think it will be helpful?

Jackal: If you believe me, then you will shut down, get depressed, and not take any risks and then we will be safe.

My inner parent: Yea, so you want to be safe from hurt.

Jackal: That's right.

My inner parent: Jackal, what we both know is that depression is actually more painful than any hurt I could experience in my relationships. Do you remember all the pain we've experienced in the past with depression?
I want you to know I am committed to keeping us safe. I do this by paying attention to our inner experience through mindfulness, meditation, journaling, and talking with others.

And I consistently take the time to care for it like I am doing right now with you.  I am meeting a need for safety by taking a time-out when I hear something hurts so that I can respond to it in a way that works.

This dialogue effectively dissolved this jackal. This was the alpha jackal of a pack that showed up together. So I had several dialogues of this sort, one after the other, addressing each jackal in turn.

Let's sum up the key elements in responding to jackals that stick.

  1. Notice when you're reacting.
    1. Know the signs and symptoms of reaction in your body -  Anger and shut down are the most common indicators
  2. Choose to take a timeout from the interaction.
  3. Get front row seats at your jackal show (Ask: "What am I telling myself?").
  4. Access your calm and nurturing inner parent.
  5. Engage the jackals in a dialogue one by one. This dialogue includes:
    1. Guess the feelings and needs of your jackals
    2. Ground your jackals in what you know is true, (eg. depression won't make us safe from hurt).
    3. Let your jackals know the concrete strategies you are engaging in to meet the needs they are concerned about.

This week give yourself at least one timeout when you notice reactivity.  During the timeout, follow the steps outlined above.

Next Gem
Control Disguised as a Request
Previous Gem
A Pitfall of Improving Your Relationship


6 Responses

  1. Aug 25, 2010
    Tam An Tran

    LaShelle, I do not remember the "I'm rubber; you're glue...." playground taunt when I was in school. It seems much less hurtful than what I've experienced! Anyway, I like it and your comments on it. I am convinced from my own experience that the best thinkg to do is to go sit down and reflect on waht jsut occured and ask myself what part I had to play with such a comment by someone and whenever I do this, I can see the other person is suffering and I AM responsible for my part in helping the other individual to recognize they are suffering by either keeping my mouth shut - something that is not easy to do when we ourselves our hurting and do not understand the true cause of one's own pain, nevermind the pain of the other person or speaking with a gentle and compassionate tone of voice, as the other person is suffering so.

    I agree with you that it is about insight into the other person's feelings and needs.

    Tam An

  2. Aug 25, 2010
    Michael Paglinger

    LaShelle,
    I really appreciate receiving your Gems. The thoughts and techniques you share help me grow into a person with deeper connection with myself and with others and to feel more peace and less conflict. It's also reassuring to witness others on similar journeys as evidenced by your stories and the stories of others that you share. Is there a way I could contribute something to you or to others to give thanks for the time and energy that you put into your Gems?
    Sincerely,
    Micheal Paglinger (503) 887-4383

  3. Aug 28, 2010
    Tam An K. Tran

    LaShelle,
    Although I've written once already in response to this latest Gem, I am realizing more and more how much I repeat myself. I suppose it is because everything we do or say are echoes or repetitions of what is basically the problem, i.e. karma from past lives and this lifetime. I realize again and again how I make repeated mistakes that I then regret and the key is to apply empathic listening and exchange places mentally in order to understand others difficulties as our own. I, too, appreciate your weekly Gems and I want to purchase a copy of your workbook, although I intend to keep this weekly Gems in a folder so that I can refer to them when I meet with difficulties and experience 'difficult' relationships with 'difficult' people! I also wish to have a link to this website of yours for people who come across my Blog once I have it set up and running, to contact you for further guidance and help.

    Thanks again,
    Tam An

  4. Sep 03, 2010
    Gabor

    Hello LaShelle,

    I very much appreciate the gentleness throughout your site. I showed it to the other people and the teacher in my NVC course when I found it, and they all valued it.

    Reading this gem today helps me to feel less overwhelmed with all there is to learn about NVC and with knowing how much work it takes to unassemble all the Jackal habits I so carefully put together in years past. If I just use a little creativity like you demonstrate often.

    The first sentence was hard to understand at first (maybe because English is my second language - somehow the possessives were swapped up). Did you mean:
    "When name-calling or criticism come YOUR way and some part of you literally believes THEY ARE are true, they stick and, of course, they hurt."

  5. Oct 16, 2011

    Hows Your Weekend was just surfing around the internet looking for some new reading blog posts when i discovered this post on reddit. I had to write you a comment to state that I actually loved this post. I find it difficult to come across much quality any more on the net nowadays with all the junk on the market so any time I do see a great posting I treasure it. Keep up the excellent work and I am confident this site is going to go a long ways and turn out to be pretty well-known

  6. Oct 18, 2011

    Thank you Rosendo. I hope my writing can continue to serve you well.

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