How to Deal with Critics ... We've All Got 'em!


I have a law degree and a certificate in international commercial arbitration, but that doesn't mean that I am immune from conflict. It simply means I am better equipped to handle it. But, even on our best days, there are those who sometimes push us to the brink of what we can reasonably bear. Critics are the worst! They've got a retort for everything we say. Some can even produce an itemized list of what we've done wrong. Hmmpf!


But, you've got it all under control, right? Well, maybe not. After all, are you managing conflict or actually resolving it? Yeah, I know. Haters are gonna hate ... But, avoidance isn't a long-term solution. Here are three lessons I've learned from arbitration that you can implement now. Don't worry, all legal fees are waived!


3 Arbitration Tactics for Dealing with Conflict

Opinions are overrated. Consider the facts.

I know it is difficult. But, consider the facts. Not your opinion. Not your conjecture of the other person's motives. Just the facts. You will be tempted to do otherwise, but jumping to conclusions only adds fire to the fury of conflict. Almost all conflict is more complicated than it first appears on the surface. Even if you think the reason for the conflict is obvious, give everyone involved an opportunity to share their point-of-view. Get a sense of the history and context involved. Don't make assumptions. Instead, gather facts. When you remain objective, it will give you a better perspective on how to deal with the situation.

Keep a positive tone. Check your negativity at the door!

Don't allow others to provoke an emotional response. Whether they realize it or not, this is a tactic people often employ to shift the balance of power in their own favor. Ostensibly benign issues can quickly transform into angry outbursts, hurt feelings, and simmering resentment. Rather than overreacting or becoming emotional, remind the critic of the facts while maintaining a neutral, positive tone. This shifts the focus of the conversation back to what matters, the topic at hand, instead of a personal judgment of your emotional state. If necessary, take a break and use time to your advantage to ensure a productive and more peaceful discussion.

Think like a problem-solver.

Compromise isn't about winning or losing. Instead of thinking like a lawyer and passionately defending your point of view, think like a problem solver. There aren't sides in arbitration, only creative strategizing for joint problems. Life isn't an episode of Law & Order. This isn't about competing or proving you're right, it's about finding common ground. People who understand the importance of collaborating with one another, find a way to create value for each other regardless of the dispute. Capitalize on shared interests. If you build a foundation of trust and optimism, you can work cooperatively to find and resolve the main sources of the conflict.