How to Silence Your Critics
By Jessie Knadler
You didn't see it coming. You didn't even feel it land — until a split second
later when you suddenly realize you've had the wind knocked out of you. What
just hit you? Someone's nasty comment, and it's cut you to the core.
Sometimes a faultfinder disguises her disapproval as a quasi-compliment:
"I would have never had the courage to talk to my boss the way you
did." Other times, a jab takes the form of a cautionary tale: "You're
going on a cruise? I still get nightmares about the time I spent two weeks in
the lavatory aboard one of those ships." And occasionally it's just served
up the old-fashioned way — cold: "Those vegetarian burritos you made?
Granted, not every critic is intentionally trying to smash your various
hopes, dreams, and good intentions into a bloody pulp. Perhaps she is genuinely
trying to be honest and helpful, or is completely clueless — or maybe this is
just her weird, corrosive way of making conversation. Whatever her motive,
you're left second-guessing your decisions (Was I being out of line with my
boss the other day? Maybe taking a cruise isn't such a fabulous idea after
all...), and editing — if not completely overhauling — your future behavior
suddenly seems to be in order.
But here's the thing: "By giving in to the critical opinions of others,
you end up relinquishing your own, and that dilutes your purpose in life,"
says Judith Orloff, M.D., author of Positive Energy. "In other
words, the more authority you relinquish, the more dependent you become upon
others to determine what's right for you — and the less confident you feel in
your decisions." (The word "pushover" comes to mind.) What's more,
because daring to try new things, follow your dreams, and go with your gut can
be hard, a critic's negativity can stop even the strongest, most determined of
us in our tracks. This is why you need to listen closely to your own inner
voice, the one that cheers you on and helps you just go for it, no matter what
the buzz killers say. After all, who can know what's right for you except you?
So the next time one of these critical types crosses your path, here's how not
to let her snipes throw you off course.
THE "HONEST" CRITIC
This is the person who considers it her divine right — and duty — to speak
the truth at all costs. ("That new dress makes you look a little
hippy." "Damn, your dog is fat. What are you feeding him — gravy?"
"I would have never let my kid get away with that.") And you're not
supposed to be offended because, hey, she's just being honest — and isn't
honesty a virtue? Not necessarily. "A friend's mother was diagnosed with
breast cancer, and one of my other friends said to me and some mutual friends
that the woman got it because she wasn't a healthy eater," recalls Rhett
Pruitt, 35, of Mountain Rest, SC. "I was so angry. I was already feeling
very upset about my friend's mom, and hearing those insensitive words made
things even worse."