This was yesterday’s paradoxical tip of the day!
There’s no such thing as a false criticism.
The best way to explain this is through a specific criticism you have received from someone. You can nearly always, if not always, find some truth in it. When people criticize you, they always have something in mind about you that’s bugging them. And even if they express their criticism in an exaggerated way, you can still find the truth in what they are saying if you are motivated to really SEE and comprehend what they are trying to tell you.
The most obvious example of a tough criticism to agree with might be the outburst from a hospitalized individual with schizophrenia who angrily says something to you that sounds delusional, like “I know you are from the FBI plotting to have me killed, and don’t you deny it!”
Is there some truth in this criticism? Of course there is, and if you think about your therapy session with this individual yesterday, you might recall that it was pretty tense, so you could say something like this:
“Jim, I have to agree with you. We’re on the same page. Yesterday I thought I didn’t do a good job making you feel safe or cared about during our therapy session, and I don’t think I communicated enough warmth or respect. It was awkward for me to, and I’ve been criticizing myself as well, especially since I really do like you. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were feeling anxious, scared, mistrustful, and even angry with me. Can you tell me what that was like for you? Your feelings are really important, and I want to hear more about what you’ve been thinking and feeling.”
That’s just off the top of my head, and you could probably improve on it. But the odds are about 90% that Jim will calm right down and open up. Of course, your statement has to be genuine, and it has to come from the heart, or it won’t be effective.
The statement I wrote is an example of the Disarming Technique, which is one of the Five Secrets of Effective Communication. When you us the Disarming Technique, you find truth in what the other person is saying, even if it seems totally untrue or unfair. And the moment you do this, if you do it skillfully, the other personal will nearly always stop believing their criticism. This is a paradox. In other words, you can usually put the lie to a criticism by genuinely agreeing with it, showing self-respect and respect for the other person.
But this is hard because:
- It is a high art form that requires lots of practice.
- It requires genuine humility and the death of the “ego,” or “self.” The Buddha called this the “Great Death,” but the concept is woven into nearly all religions.
- It requires the strong desire to have a close and rewarding relationship with the person who is criticizing you.
Very few people will fulfill these three requirements. That’s one of the main reasons why we continue to have so much conflict and suffering in the world, both between individuals (married couples, friends, family members, strangers, and colleagues) as well as between religions, nations, political parties, and so forth. We all want to be “right.” I have often said that “truth” is the cause of nearly all the suffering in the world today.
There’s another paradox. Did you get it?
* Copyright © 2018 by David D. Burns, MD.
Hey, folks, my summer intensives are nearly always my BEST training programs of the year, and they are almost upon us. Here are the specifics:
Coming in Canada in July
For more information, contact Jack Hirose & Associates Inc.
Phone: 604.924.0296, Toll-free: 1.800.456.5424
* * *
Coming in San Francisco in August
High Speed, Drug Free Treatment of Depression and Anxiety Disorders–
A Four-Day TEAM-CBT Advanced Intensive
August 6 – 9, 2018, South San Francisco Conference Center, California
For more information, click here
or contact http://www.iahb.org/
If you can only attend one of my workshops, consider an intensive! They are
Register right away if you want to get in on the action!
Hope to see you in Whistler in July or San Francisco in August!
This was yesterday’s paradoxical tip of the day!
If you defend yourself against a criticism that appears to be totally false and unfair, you will prove that the criticism is absolutely valid. In contrast, if you genuinely agree with a criticism that is totally false and unfair, the moment you agree with it, it will no longer be true, and the critic will no longer believe it!
This is called the Law of Opposites. What does it mean? If you grasp it, it can change your life!
Yesterday’s tip is called the Law of Opposites, and it’s the philosophical underpinning of the Disarming Technique. The Disarming Technique is one of the most important of my Five Secrets of Effective Communication. Do you know what it is?
Here’s the definition of the Disarming Technique: You find truth in a criticism, even if you think the criticism is wrong, exaggerated, or unfair. If you do this skillfully and genuinely, in nearly all cases the person who’s criticizing you will suddenly conclude that their criticism wasn’t valid! But if you defend yourself, you’ll prove that their criticism was absolutely valid! This is a paradox for sure, and it’s pretty amazing.
I use the Disarming Technique all the time in my teaching, my therapy, and in my personal life. Here’s an example from my teaching. At the end of the first day of every workshop, I have the participants complete a rating for the day that includes a space to write down what they didn’t like, as well as a space to write down what they did like. I tell them that I will review the evaluations carefully in the evening, and promise to read several of the most brutal comments, as well as several of the most positive comments the next morning, at the start of the second day of the workshop.
Sometimes I get a hostile comment or two, even if the overall ratings from day 1 were positive, or even spectacular. For example, someone may write something to the effect that I seemed arrogant or narcissistic or that I was too critical of other schools of therapy.
Here’s how I might typically respond using the Disarming Technique plus several other communication techniques (Feeling Empathy, “I Feel” Statements, and Stroking):
“You know, it was painful for me to read your comment, because I agree with you. You’re right. I am too narcissistic. It’s one of my worst flaws, but certainly not my only flaw. You were also right in saying that I’m often too critical of other schools of therapy. I do that a lot, and it can be very insulting. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if you’re feeling angry with me, and for good reason.
“Humility and respect are far more effective teaching tools than arrogance or putting people down. I want you to know that I deeply appreciate your willingness to let me know that I screwed up in that way yesterday!”
I find that audiences respond incredibly well to this type of comment, and the morale on day 2 soars. Do you see why?
The Law of Opposites works like this. If I genuinely agree with the criticism, and admit that it was painful for me to read it, the audience members see me as vulnerable and human, and hopefully even a bit humble and down to earth. Most people are quick to forgive if you speak from the heart and admit that what they’re saying is true.
But this is extremely hard to learn, in part because our ego gets in the way! And the Disarming Technique really requires the death of the self, or ego–what the Buddhists called “The Great Death.”
It’s also hard to learn because defensiveness is programmed into our human nature, and in addition, you may not “see” the truth in the criticism at first. And if you do this as a gimmick, it won’t be effective.
I hope that makes the Law of Opposites clear. Let me know if you “get it!” You can use the Reply / Comment feature below to let me know if you understand my solution to the riddle.
Coming Next Week! Move Fast if You Want to Attend!
One of my best two-day workshops ever!
“Scared Stiff: Fast, Effective Treatment for Anxiety Disorders”
Mike Christensen and several others will be joining me at both locations to help out with supervision of the small group exercises. You’ll LOVE this workshop and you’ll learn TONS of powerful techniques to treat every type of anxiety. You’ll learn how to heal your clients and your own feelings of insecurity and self-doubt as well!
I will also do a live demonstration of the new TEAM-CBT with a member of the audience who’s been struggling with anxiety on the first night of each workshop. Mike Christensen will be my co-therapist. The live demonstrations are nearly always the highlight of every workshop.
I hope you can join us in Calgary or in Winnipeg. Thanks so much!
* * *
Hey, I also have a cool new workshop on intimacy in mid-June!
9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Michael’s at Shoreline
2960 N. Shoreline Blvd.
Mountain View, CA 94043
Sponsored by the Santa Clara Valley of CAMFT
(California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists)
In this entirely new workshop, you’ll learn how to transform failed, frustrating relationships into satisfying, trusting ones, so you can enjoy greater success in your clinical work and more loving relationships with the people you care about the most.
I’ll be joined by the brilliant and totally wonderful Kyle Jones, a 3rd year PhD student at Palo Alto University with outstanding clinical skills. Although I’ll be doing the main teaching, Kyle will back me up and help me provide helpful feedback to all of you during the many small group exercises throughout the workshop.
In the morning, we’ll focus on dealing with challenging clients, and in the afternoon we will take on a far greater challenge: how to deal with challenging loved ones!
All of that plus:
- Free breakfast
- Free lunch
- 6 CE credits
- Lots of fun while learning!
At the end of this workshop you will be able to:
- Use the Five Secrets of Effective Communication
- Enhance your own and your client’s communication skills with the Intimacy Exercise
- Transform hostile relationships into trusting, loving ones
- Resolve therapeutic logjams and boost your therapeutic effectiveness
- Track therapeutic progress and assess the quality of the therapeutic alliance
- Fail joyfully
- Transform therapeutic failure into success
You will also learn how to deal with clients and loved ones who:
- Complain but ignore your efforts to help
- Challenge or provoke you
- Criticize you unfairly
- Refuse to talk or open up
You will also learn how to deal with clients and loved ones who are:
- Narcissistic, controlling, or self-centered
- Angry, threatening or violent
- Resistant and oppositional
- Overwhelmingly depressed, panicky, or hopeless
Hope to see you there!
* Copyright © 2018 by David D. Burns, MD.