“You can’t please everybody.”
We know that, we say that, and on good days we actually believe that. But it’s funny how all our logic and confidence can crumble when we hear a critical comment from a parent, a boss, teacher, or anyone whose opinion deeply matters to us. Sometimes, we even internalize what they say, replaying their painful remarks in our heads so many times that we put ourselves down in their behalf. “I knew I couldn’t make this business work…Dad said I was crazy, and he was right.” Or, a stinging comment can upset us for the rest of the day (or week!), wasting valuable time and energy as we imagine sarcastic comebacks or vent, rage, and complain to anyone who’ll listen. So how do we snap out of this and deal with criticism in a healthy and positive way? Read on.
1. It’s not always about you.
That’s right. Many unreasonable, hurtful comments say more about the critic than the person being criticized. Psychologists call this “projection.” We don’t like something about ourselves, but we don’t want to deal with it—so we reflect that quality back to others. For example, someone who is insecure about her physical appearance will be more likely to make fun of what others are wearing. Or, a manager who feels threatened about his position will be quicker to point out the mistakes of his colleagues.
To find out if you were just caught in the path of somebody’s fears and insecurity, watch how he behaves around other people. Does he make similar comments, or tend to focus on negative things? Or, think about your history together. Does he always put you down, regardless of your efforts or actions?
2. Look for the intention and the message.
Let’s face it, some people are just social morons, unable to pick up subtle emotional cues or anticipate how their words will come across. Or, maybe they have trouble expressing themselves, or are uncomfortable dealing with people. They mean well, and probably care very much about others, they just…don’t know how to show it.
One good example of this is how even adults will spend thousands of dollars on therapy complaining about how their parents weren’t “supportive,” even citing specific experiences: “He called me a slacker!” But those parents have a different story to tell. “I just meant that he needed to be more disciplined, because he was wasting so much of his potential.”