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You Had Good Intentions & They Criticized You

“Whoa!  Huh?  Where’d that come from?”

Let me explain.

I always get comments on our newsletters.  I love getting them.  Lets me know how the message resonated with people and keeps me in touch with folks.  I’ve gotten hundreds of wonderful, encouraging notes over the years.

In nearly 20 years of writing newsIetters, I can remember only one comment you’d call mildly negative and a couple others that politely questioned some aspect of what I’d said.  That’s it for the other side of the ledger.

In the last Life Lessons newsletter, I talked about decision fatigue and the things you can do to mitigate its negative effects. Pretty neutral subject.

I got three nice responses, and then one that told me the message was “incredibly condescending.”  The person went on to criticize me personally, but you don’t need those details.

What?  I was taken aback.

Now, I don’t know about you, but whenever someone offers up criticism, I take it to heart and immediately look to see if I might be “guilty” as charged.  I almost always presume I am.  I can’t help it.  It goes back to my Catholic upbringing and feeling like I’m always in trouble with the nuns!

That’s a positive trait in a way, because it kinda forces you to consider where you might be missing the mark, which is a necessary, if somewhat unpleasant, exercise if you’re interested in improving your performance.

But, the flip side of that is that criticism that’s not valid can put you in a funk, damage your confidence, and keep you from keepin’ on … undaunted.

People will have their opinions.  There’s nothing you can do about that.

But as the famous saying from Eleanor Roosevelt goes …

What other people think of me is none of my business.

Ha.  Love it.  But guess what?  Here’s the problem.

We tend to react far more strongly to negative messages than positive ones, and so we make it our business.  In extreme cases, one casual statement can sink the ship.

I’m reminded of the tragic case of the singer, Karen Carpenter.  She overheard someone refer to her as “chubby” and she ended up literally starving herself to death in response.

Sometimes people’s criticisms aren’t valid.  Sometimes their opinions of you and comments regarding you or your work say more about them than they do about you.

So, what do you do when somebody dings you like this?

Well, I went back and looked at the newsletter again and I saw how one paragraph could have been taken the wrong way … and certainly not the way I intended it.

But, you know what?  It’s easy for people to read into your words something that isn’t there, especially when those words are written, not spoken.  How often have you misconstrued the tone of an email or had someone take your own message the wrong way?

Yeah, it happens, and I think that’s what happened here.

So, what are the takeaways for me … and you … from all this?

  • First, it only makes sense to evaluate criticism with the most open mind possible to see if the shoe fits, so you can course correct if needed.
  • Second, you can’t let misguided, invalid criticism derail you and smother your mojo.
  • Third, realize that you’re likely prone to giving far more weight to criticism than you do to kudos. Just be careful not to be too hard on yourself.

Not everybody’s gonna like you or appreciate what you do, but think about all the people who love you. 

They’re the ones that really matter.

Oh, and the rest of the story?

Later that evening, I got the following note:

“I just wanted to say, having read your latest newsletter, how much they talk to me.  You always seem to touch the mark. 

I know in our busy lives the easy option is to read and move on, but, in this case Denise, I just wanted to acknowledge the power and love of your messages.”

Aww!  That’s why I do what I do!



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