Taming Your Inner Critic

Often we notice a voice in our head that is frequently criticizing us. You know the one that tells us our boss didn’t like what we just said, even though we have no proof of this. Sometimes it’s the critical voice that we can hear when the room is totally silent and it’s telling us what we are about to say is ridiculous and that no one is going to agree with us. The Inner Critic can show up in all sorts of different situations. The good news is that you’re not going crazy, having an inner critic is normal and we all have one to a greater or lesser degree, so you can breathe a sigh of relief. The bad news is, taming the Inner Critic takes some effort…

First, a bit of background on your inner critic: The Inner Critic’s job is to keep you safe and keep you looking good. Thank it for that, it probably managed to keep you from getting fired once or twice, I know mine has! The problem is often the Inner Critic works overtime with the hopes of keeping you from ever taking any risks. And we all know risk taking is sometimes essential to professional / personal growth and living a fulfilling life. So the Inner Critic needs to be invited to relax and back off.

How to tame your Inner Critic & tranform it into your Inner Partner: First start to notice and befriend your Inner Critic. Many of us are so accustomed to the Inner Critic’s voice that we no longer notice it consciously. Exercise #1: Writing a Letter: Write a letter to your Inner Critic. Tell it what you are thankful for and what you appreciate about it. Ask it what it wants you to know, then tell it what you want it to know and reassure it that you have things under control.

Here’s an example from a client: Hello Inner Critic, I thought it was time we met so I could express my appreciation for your constant vigilance of my performance and behavior. You have been a true friend, ensuring that I am at the top of my game so that colleagues and friends see me as someone always striving to do her best. Your advice and support have been invaluable in making me the person I am today. The thing is, as time passes I realize that sometimes your feedback is holding me back from achieving new goals. Your persistent critical appraisal sometimes makes me feel that unless I am 100% good at something I should not attempt it. How will I learn new skills if that is how I feel? Surely it needs to be a gradual progression from 0% to 100%? That’s how I used to learn when I was younger – by making mistakes! Now that I’m older, your appraisal holds me back from even trying for fear of making mistakes and coming across as silly. So I have a request. Would you be able to relax and hold off on the critiquing for a while, at least until I’ve progressed to around 80% of the skill level? After that level, you could come back in appraisal mode and help me achieve that golden goal of perfection that you urge me towards. I feel this would help me enormously and I would be able to gain new skills rapidly, without stressing about making mistakes. Let me know how we can work together to achieve this goal, for then I feel we could both win. Your friend, Chris Exercise #2: Feed Forward: The goal is to turn your Inner Critic into your Inner Partner, where it can give you much more constructive, supportive comments in the form of feed forward * which are much more likely to help you to progress with less guilt, shame or fear. (*Feed forward is used by some of the world's greatest athletes. It comes from Marshall Goldsmith and consists of two sentences: What you are doing well and what you can do to be even more effective.) So the next time you hear your Inner Critic kick into gear, stop and re-frame the criticism into feed forward.

  • Inner Critic says: “What were you thinking!!?? That was idiotic to submit the report without checking the sources of your data!!”

  • Inner Partner says: “Ah what worked well was that you got the report completed by the deadline and next time, you’ll be even more effective when you double check your data before submitting the report.”

Keep noticing your Inner Critic and practicing re-framing him/her into an Inner Partner and notice how much better you feel and how much more productive you become! If you would like some more inspiration for transforming your inner critic I put together a short video, which you can only see here: Communication Skills - Inner Critic

Don't take our word for it! Actions speak louder than words, and we just love sharing the successes that our clients get by using the Predator, Prey, Partner techniques. * This month's success story:

Hi Amy,

I wanted to send you this quick note to tell you how much I enjoyed meeting and working with you. Your session was fantastic. I was in the "catbird seat": I could see the room coming to life and feel the energy level rising... and the feedback forms confirmed it (you were a hit!). Most of all, I want to thank you for being so easy to work with, and for your warmth. I enjoyed every minute and hope we'll be able to do it again. Track co-chair, 2013 IABC World Conference

* The Predator Prey or Partner™ model is licensed content created by Pat Kirkland of Pat Kirkland Leadership Inc. Founded in 1990, PKL (patkirklandleadership.com) is a company with a purpose, the "soul" purpose of creating a world that works together better. Its business mission is to offer practical, powerful communication programs teaching people how to transform their work relationships by changing how they communicate.

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Predator, Prey, Partner is a trademark of Pat Kirkland Leadership Inc.

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