Its easy to live life in a bubble. But to survive and thrive through our interpersonal relationships is the real test of life.

In my experience as a women’s wellbeing and leadership coach, I’ve seen again and again that many of us react negatively to criticism. We tend to blame others and respond aggressively – or we take it in and ruminate endlessly about it to our own detriment.

If you relate to this, here’s a 3 step process that may help you bring some perspective around the criticism and respond with far greater self-awareness.

Step 1: Take a few deep and slow breaths

This is important because your body and your mind are tightly coupled – when you feel threatened, your physiology changes, and this begins a chain of feedback loops where your quickened breath makes you think you’re under attack which further shifts your physiology… By consciously slowing down your breath, you return your body to a state of hemostasis and send your mind the signal that all is good.

Step 2: Build some perspective

Ask yourself a few questions that help you make sense of the criticism. The most important one is to ask yourself “What meaning am I giving to the criticism?” What do you think it says about you? Is there any other way to look at the situation, even if you give it very low likelihood? Because when you open up to other possibilities, you allow yourself to learn from the criticism and grow through it.

Step 3: Plan your action

The 2 steps above give you that much needed space to respond consciously to the criticism, instead of reacting impulsively or stewing in it. You may decide to let go of the criticism if you feel it’s a result of the giver’s lack of self-awareness. You may decide to bring it up with them if you feel it’s unfair or incorrect and needs addressing. Or you may realize that it tells you something important about you or them that can help you going forward. Regardless, you engage in taking pro-active action rather than draining yourself with your negative thoughts.

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