The less-than-flattering performance reviewDon't: Attempt to explain or defend yourself. "Don't have a conversation about anything unless you have all the facts at hand," says UK-based business psychologist David Taylor.
Do: Pepper your feedback with phrases like, "That's interesting..." or "I appreciate that insight..." To avoid tears, try this trick, advises Taylor: the night before your review, listen to a song that makes you feel on top of the world. Play it three times and each repeat, midway through, touch your thumb and forefinger together with one hand. If you feel yourself getting upset at a remark from your boss the next day, do the thumb-forefinger gesture and you'll be back in control of your emotions.
The unsolicited outfit/relationship/parenting critique from a friend
Don't: Engage in a tit for tat with a retort that begins something like this, "Well, you always..." But as mindful awareness expert Dr Dan Siegel explains, "Sure, you can give them one hell of a comeback, but you'll be showing a lot more strength if you don't."
Do: Nothing, or just say, "Hmm,..." before moving on. "Often friends criticise you because: a) they're trying to control you, or b) they're trying to get a reaction from you," says Valorie Burton, author of What's Really Holding You Back? (Random House, $32.95). Thwart any possible intended manipulation by blanking them.
The button-pushing conversation with a parentDon't: Take it personally and then lose your temper.
Do: Remember the best response is a non-response. Also, try rhetorical questions like, "You think so?" or "Is that right?" Doing this, says Burton, helps you put the ball back in their court without yielding to or validating what they said. "They might elaborate on their critique," adds Burton (and you might realise they have a point), "but chances are they'll realise it's not a topic that's up for discussion."
How to dish it out delicately
1 Start off with a compliment: "I appreciate when you...", or "It's really helpful when..."
2 Then cut to the chase: "Something that's causing me some trouble is...
3 Finally, offer a solution: "In the future, do you think you/we can..." And never say "never" (as in "you never answer my calls") or "always" (as in "you always ask me for money").