Have you ever been on a soccer team? Or any sports team for that matter. Well then you've been "coached" before. But it is much different when you are in a relationship with someone who is your equal. When have you ever taken critical criticism well from a teammate? Ok so maybe you guys are a better human beings than I am, but I can tell you it's very hard for me to hear corrections from someone in the same position as I am. Even if I respect them. In fact, it happens all the time with my parents. I know they love me and just want what's best for me, but when I hear them talk about how I can finance my money, or how I have an issue with pride (yes, it's true), I get defensive.

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So how are we supposed to grow if we get defensive whenever someone mentions critical criticism? I can tell you it's not easy. But here are a few things I've come to realize when a loved one or I am giving constructive criticism.

How to give criticism:

1) Don't spring it on someone
Surprising criticism on someone can only go one of two ways: acceptance through humility or getting defensive. For me, it's mostly the latter. So what I've found to help is setting up a time to talk and letting the other person know that you want to have a serious discussion. But when you do this, make sure to tell them that it is nothing bad. This puts their mind at ease but also prepares them for some potential soul searching. Which leads me to my second point.

2) Don't jump straight in to the negative
Although it's easy to come in "guns ablazin'", that only puts someone, once again, in a defensive mood or it makes them feel steam rolled. So you want to come up with some positives. This lets the other person know you value them. If you start out with "Hey, I hate when you leave the kitchen a mess. It drives me nuts and I hate cleaning up after you", it would make most people angry and defensive. Instead start out with "Hey, I love how much you enjoy cooking and how much happiness it brings you. I love when little things like that make you smile. And although I love knowing you've cooked in the kitchen, it makes me feel anxious when I walk in and see the mess. It makes me feel like I need to clean it up for you." That puts the other person in a more accepting position. Which leads me, once again, to my next point.

3) Don't make it about you
Well, it is about you but it's about them too. I hate sounding like a therapist because I'm not, but the power of "I feel" is so real. It makes it more about your relationship with the other person than about you. There's a reason why therapist's always talk about "feeling" words. Because it doesn't make the other person feel attacked in any way, shape, or form, which in turn, makes them more receptive and understanding.

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How to receive criticism (never easy):

This one is one of the major foundations to an equal relationship. When receiving criticism, it's so easy to get defensive. But you have to understand, they are bringing this up for a reason. It probably isn't the first time that your partner has witnessed that behavior they are mentioning to you. And the best part is, they love you so much that they want to work with you to make the relationship work. That's why you are having that discussion in the first place. If they didn't care about you, they either wouldn't mention it to you or they'd just leave. Having a relationship is work! Know that.

2) Take time to process
It's okay if you don't have a response right away, especially if you don't have a positive response. As Thumper from Bambi says "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all". In fact, after your partner has brought up all their concerns, maybe take 10 minutes alone to process and then regroup and start an open discussion about it. It's so important to take that time so that you can keep yourself from getting defensive because they might be right.

3) Ask for examples
Not only does this clarify what the other person is seeing but it also attaches meaning to their criticism. It lets you know where you need to be careful of slipping back in to that behavior. This also works on the flip side. If you are giving criticism, have examples prepared so that the other person can see what you are seeing.

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Accepting critical criticism is tough, but so is growing up. Just know how luck you are to have someone in your life care so much about you that they would risk you being angry at them to bring this up to you. Life is too short to be stubborn. Learn to live and learn to grow. If you have any advice on how you handle criticism, I'd love to hear in the comments below!!!