Monday, January 21, 2013

New Year's Resolutions: Part 2 (Thin Skin)

Our conversation continued with one of my friends/colleagues telling us one of her resolutions: to continue self-improvement by not shutting out critiques she receives from others.  Instead, she will listen with an open mind and heart.
"But shouldn't we build thick skins?" asked Ben.
"I think that's part of the problem," responded Lorre.  "We should thin our skins."
And so we arrived at a discussion of thick versus thin skins.  When we thicken our skins, we don't let things bother us; we build a barrier that repulses anything we do not want to hear.  We appear strong.  The problem with this technique, however, is that it limits our ability to self-improve.  Without at least considering what someone else says, we are dismissing potentially invaluable advice for personal growth.

On the contrary, when we thin our skins, we allow ourselves to embrace criticism.  Lorre advises that if we are bothered by what we hear, if it triggers an exaggerated reaction within us, we need to understand why; we need to delve into the reason behind these words and our reactions.  Thinning our skins is less about just hearing someone else's critique and more about introspection, consideration, and thoughtfulness.  We enhance our self-improvement when we take the time to listen, feel, and review with our open mind and heart.

So how do we incorporate a thin skin into our daily lives?

10 Steps to Thin Skin

     1.   Fully listen to the critique.
     2.   If you feel yourself get worked up over the words being said, note

             your emotions.  Are you feeling angry? Sad?  Misunderstood?
           Confused?  Shocked?  Give yourself the permission to feel any
           emotion that naturally occurs, but do not react using these emotions.
     3.   Thank the other person for sharing their thoughts.
     4.   Other than a polite thank you, do not feel the need to respond 
     5.   Write down the critique and let it go for the moment.
     6.   When you are in a calm state of mind, re-read the critique.  Note any
           new emotions that develop.
     7.   Spend several minutes of introspection outlining the following:
           -   The merit of what the other person said (be honest with yourself)
           -   What you feel
           -   What other scenarios trigger a similar response
           -   Any negative self-talk
           -   Why you feel this way
           -   The root of this critique
           -   How you can improve in this area
           -   How you will respond in the future
     8.   Create a SMART goal for self-improvement
     9.   If you feel the need, after a period of introspection, return to the
             other person and ask for clarification, their ideas on how you could
           improve, or finally provide your response.
     10. Rinse, wash, repeat.  The next time you receive a similar critique,
           go through the process again; it will probably feel a little different
           this time.  Incrementally, you will begin to note change.
           Immediately, you will sense yourself approaching others more openly
           as you begin to understand yourself better.  

Importantly, remember that this process is cyclical.  Do not get frustrated.  In the words of President Obama from his inaugural speech today:
"Our journey is not complete."  -President Barack Obama
What are your thoughts?  Do you strive for thick skin or thin?   

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