How to Handle a Bashing Session

At some point in your career you will have a bashing session where you are criticized in a negative way. It is important to prepare and know how to handle these situations as we are often scared of being reprimanded, in addition to feeling drained and demotivated afterwards. As such, I would like to go over some of the things that you can do to prepare for these situations.

  1. How do you know a bashing session is coming?
    Sometimes you think that you are going into a bashing session only to find out that it wasn't one, and it took you completely by surprise. In these situations you may find that you prepare yourself by going into a defensive mode or even an attack mode, which may then make you come across as being crazy. You may also be taken by surprise if they are being positive and not bashing you, so much so that you may have not been adequately prepared for the questions that they ask.

  2. Frame the meeting
    If you know for sure that you are going into a bashing session, then try start off the meeting by saying something to the effect of "I am aware of the challenges that we have currently been facing and I do take them seriously, but I would like to focus on the solution as if we focus on the blame game, it will not get us anywhere". When it is framed like this, you will often find that people are in agreement and want to find a solution to the problem.

  3. Resilience
    When I first heard of this, I wasn't sure what it meant so I looked it up to find out. For those of you that don't know, it means the following:

    The ability to recover quickly from difficulties or tough situations

    So before the meeting takes place, make a concious decision to not crumble and keep focused on the goals. Mentally, you need to be prepared to stay resilient no matter what other people say about you or if they bring you down. A trick that you can use is to think about some previous times that you have crumbled and through that, build the strength to not let that happen again. You tend to find that when you are not prepared and caught off guard you tend to crumble and fall apart.

  4. Being comfortable with being misunderstood
    As humans, we have the tendency to make sure that we are never misunderstood by covering all our bases. You need to learn to be comfortable with other people thinking that you are wrong, when in actual fact you are right. If you don't you may find yourself spending vast amounts of time to try change their perception, when it is actually fruitless in the end.

  5. Have a good opinion of yourself
    I'm currently reading Steven Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and in it he talks about moving from dependence to independence and finally interdependence. If you are at the dependence stage, you will find yourself looking externally for encouragement and self-esteem.

    You need to lose this dependence and become comfortable and confident with yourself and not relying on others opinions. The reason being that if just one person says something bad about you, your balloon will be completely deflated. However, if you are confident with yourself you will look at it objectively and if it is not well-founded you can dismiss it.

    Sometimes, even if you have an opinion of yourself, the opinions of your superiors supersedes it. You need to self-assess and incorporate the opinions of others incorporate the feedback if you think it is valid.

  6. Keep yourself in the present
    Often you will find that before and after a bashing session, people become completely consumed with fear and anticipation that their productivity drops completely. You start to worry about things like being embarrassed or not being able to answer all the questions that are posed to you. These emotions and feeling can paralyse you and you need to control these so you can focus on the important things and people that you care about.

  7. Watch yourself
    During the preparation, you need to keep an eye our on how you are coming across to the other people. By being aware of this you will either make the other people in the meeting feel secure or insecure. If you go into the session and you are all fiery and have an attacking attitude, the other people will see this and know that you aren't in control of the situation. If you come across as calm, confident and think objectively, they will see that you are on top of the situation even though they may have had issues with you.

  8. Learn to express your emotions
    In the time before the session, try to express your emotions to the people you trust. You don't want to keep them all in and have the possibility of them all blowing out in the meeting. If you have close friends, they tend to ask the questions like "Why are you feeling like this?", which may help calm you down after you think about it rationally.

  9. Everyone on the same page
    If you have other people with you, make sure that you are all on the same page so that you both react in a similar way, after all it is no use if your partner loses it and you stay calm. Another factor to take into account, is that if you are all fearful you will probably be feeding off of each other. Even if just one person that seems to be concerned then it may cause you to become alarmed and start worrying as well. Fear is like a disease, if it is not controlled it will run rampant.

It is important to note that you don't lose self-esteem or become discouraged when you have a bashing session. Keep positive and keep your chin up!

I hope you found some valuable insights into this, I know I found out quite a bit while writing this article up. Like always any comments are more than welcome in the section below.

Until next time...keep learning!

Mauro Da Silva

Learning everyday about software development, leadership & self improvement

South Africa