Welcome to my second ever guest post. This post was sent to me by someone I know well and who follows my blog. As a fellow blogger, and now successful author of a book, Jonathan has had his fair share of criticism and bad comments. Here he shares how best to deal with them. We can all learn from this!
Dealing With Criticism
Take a bus with three children under five and you will instantly get a reaction. There are the vacant stares, the enthusiastic smiles and, of course, the grim glowers of disapproval. In fact, whatever you do, if it is worthwhile or slightly abnormal, there will be critics. Once we accept that, we have to figure out what to do with them.
Since burning them at the stake, filling their shoes with silly string and torturing them with Barry Manilow songs are all against the law or impractical, we need to find something more constructive. As a dad of three, PhD graduate, interpreter and writer, I have had my fair share of rejections and criticisms and knocks.
One of the first lessons I learned about criticism, and one I am still learning, is that criticism needs to be put into context. So, for example, if you have written a book that a hundred people love, it doesn’t make any sense to get caught up in the views of one person. If you have two children whom you love and who are managing, then it shouldn’t worry you that one person on a bus or commenting on your blog tries to lob over a few choice words.
Their life isn’t yours and frankly, I doubt they would do as well as it as you are. As much as it seems sometimes that every second person is giving you the stink eye, the truth is that there will likely be people around to encourage you and affirm you. As a Christian, even when I really feel that I can’t find those lovely positive people, I can rest in the love of God. The opinions of one weirdo mean nothing to someone who knows they are already unconditionally loved.
When you hear one person mouthing off, concentrate on the affirmations of those who have been praising you. When you get one catty remark, just remember that someone else’s opinion of what you are doing is not the same as your own incredible value. Let me tell you now, you are valuable and cherished and living a worthwhile life and anyone who can’t see it is not worth listening to!
Once you learn to contextualise criticism, you start realising that there are two types of critics. The first, and oddly the most annoying, are the helpful critics. The people who care about you and want the best for you. They only ever share a correction to keep you on the right track and even if they get things wrong, you know they mean well.
Why are they so annoying? Precisely because, in the majority of cases, it helps to listen to them and you find yourself with an adjustment to make or some advice to take on board. There is nothing worse than actually realising that you still need to learn teachability and humility. Or maybe that’s just me! 😉
The other type of critic doesn’t really need a name, although you can suggest one in the comments if you like. At best, they are unhelpful, at worse, they are destructive. They are the people who see you out with a double-buggy and ask if you know where children come from (if you didn’t before…). They are the people who tell you your work should be thrown in the bin or your children are awful or…
It’s for those people that you need to exercise patience and memorise two rules. The first is that, as marketing expert Seth Godin says, being criticised for something is better than no one bothering to talk about it. Take the criticism as a badge of honour. You are doing something worthwhile that others feel is worth remarking about. Wear the badge of criticism with pride.
The second comes from Bill Hybels and still makes me take a sharp intake of breath. He argues that, even with the meanest, most unkind critic, we need to try to find the critic’s grain of truth. Maybe that stern look in the supermarket from a perfect stranger could be a reminder to react less to childish behaviour. Perhaps the odd look from the old lady on the bus reminds you of the challenge you have taken on and how much of yourself it will take to just get from day to day.
Even the harshest critic can teach us something. The biggest thing I am learning from my critics is that I still put too much importance of other people’s opinions and still tend to put too much of my value in the things I do or create. If I measure my self-worth by how well my children are behaving today or worse, how well I am behaving today, I am not likely to get anywhere.
As I learn to separate who I am from the things I do, I realise that I can change what I do more easily. And once I know that I can grow, I realise that others are on the same journey. We all have bad days, grouchy moments and get annoyed when things don’t go our way. We are all growing. Whenever I remember that and I remember that I am loved while I am not there yet, the criticism doesn’t affect me nearly as much.
I still want to buy some silly string, though!
Jonathan Downie home schools three children under five with his wife Helen, whist being a full time conference interpreter, researcher, author and speaker. He is based in Edinburgh, Scotland. He can be found at:
Twitter: @jonathanddownie (personal), @integlangsbiz (work)