As a mindset researcher and leadership developer, I have learned the following lessons:

Lesson #1: People make meaning of their world in different ways

  • Some people see constructive criticism as an attack
  • Other people see constructive criticism as a gift

Lesson #2: The meaning that people make is foundational to how they think, learn and behave

  • When people see constructive criticism as an attack, when they receive constructive criticism, they will get defensive
  • When people see constructive criticism as a gift, when they receive constructive criticism, they will welcome it as an opportunity to learn and grow

Lesson #3: There are more cognitively and emotionally sophisticated ways of making meaning of one’s world than others

  • Seeing constructive criticism as an attack is not very cognitively and emotionally sophisticated. It indicates that we ran with an emotional triggering.
  • Seeing constructive criticism as a gift is more cognitively and emotionally sophisticated. It indicates that we were able to control our emotions such that we are in a mental place where we can be “good” with being told we are “bad.”

Lesson #4: When we make meaning in more cognitively and emotionally sophisticated ways, we see the world more clearly and accurately

  • When we see constructive criticism as an attack, we are likely in a mental space where we make a blanket judgment of intention that is not fully accurate (we likely were not being attacked)
  • When we see constructive criticism as a gift, we are likely in a mental space where we can recognize the complexity of the situation, which likely involves: (1) the person delivering the constructive criticism is likely feeling scared or fearful and may not be as tactful as they could; yet despite that, (2) there may be valuable information to be gained from what they are saying that can be of value.

Lesson #5: When we make meaning in more cognitively and emotionally sophisticated ways, we navigate life more effectively and in a manner more aligned with our ideal self

  • Seeing constructive criticism as an attack prevents one from using the information to improve their ability to effectively navigate through life.
  • Seeing constructive criticism as a gift allows one to use the information to improve their ability to effectively navigate through life.

Lesson #6: Researchers have identified mindsets of different levels of cognitive and emotional sophistication:

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Lesson #7: We can improve people’s ability to make meaning of their world in more cognitively and emotionally sophisticated ways by improving their mindsets

Lesson #8: The process of helping leaders and people make meaning of their world in more cognitively and emotionally sophisticated ways is called VERTICAL DEVELOPMENT.

You can learn more about vertical development by downloading this White Paper on Vertical Development or reading any of these articles: