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Negative Self-Talk Eliminator


How Dare They Say That To Me!

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I’ve Only Got Three Nerves Left – And You Are Pinching Two Of Them (Part 11)

(…continued from last week)

Reactions to Negative Input

In his book Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams said, “A learning experience is one of those things that says, “You know that thing you just did? DON’T DO THAT!!!” ”

The way you react to criticism is one of those “…DON’T DO THAT!” kinds of experiences. But it happens so rapidly, so automatically that it’s almost faster than the speed of light sometimes.

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Many of the ways we react are understandable, but they can be very counterproductive. Here are a few common responses and unfortunately, many of these are related. We can have more than one of these going at the same time.

Reactions to Criticism & Negativity

For instance, one of the normal reactions to criticism (which does not help solve nor work through it) is fear. It’s a completely normal response.

Sometimes this fear is due to the comment itself. For example if there’s a fear that we can’t do our job properly or that we’re not very good at something, we may be afraid of being found out.

Sometimes that fear is due to the other person’s manner – if they look angry at us, if they look like they’re threatening us. Sometimes it’s due to what we think that criticism means – ‘Does this mean I’m going to lose my job?’, ‘Will I ever be really good at doing this skill?’, ‘Have I lost this customer?’, ‘Are my children going to turn out the way I really hope they do?’, ‘Is this person still mad at me, and are they never going to get over this?’

Those fears, although they are normal, are worth examining. What we’re afraid of may be seeing if they are really justified. So, reacting to criticism with fear is not to your benefit nor to the person you’re dealing with.

Anger. This is the most common emotional response to being threatened.

“How dare they say that to me!” This anger is the result of a feeling of indigence. “They’re not perfect! I’m not going to put up with this!” Again, the emotion is not really the problem but it can distract us from examining the message.

Perhaps slowing ourselves down, not letting the anger get triggered may allow us to respond in better, more helpful ways.

Another common reaction is counter-attack. Have you ever heard the best defence is a good offense? Well that’s what this is.

Somebody comes up, gives you a hard time, and you automatically respond. You react back and criticize just like they did.

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It’s a first impulse in many cases and we feel justified because they just attacked us right? “They did it first and I’m not going to stand for it!” or “I have a right to be angry, they started it but I’m going to finish it!”

Rather than ending the conflict from this response – it normally makes it worse – a small negativity that you receive, that pinch so to speak by the little claw of the crab can escalate into a full-scale war in many cases.

I heard a man after just destroying another one say, “Well I was completely justified in bringing that up. What they said to me was absolutely wrong.”

Ever heard the phrase, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”? Rarely, if ever, do they. This counter-attack does not help. When you blast someone it prods them to go emotional and react back.

Another counter productive response is denial or blame. It’s quite tempting to respond to criticism with that, but it’s inappropriate.

“Well that’s nonsense, I don’t make mistakes like that.” or “This wasn’t my fault, they’re the ones who blew it!”

It looks assertive but it’s actually a point of weakness. It’s like back peddling. Blaming somebody else oftentimes denies our position but doesn’t win anything. So watch out denying or blaming because those don’t help either.

Defence is another counter productive response. It’s so tempting to defend ourselves. There are times it is the right thing to do. In some circumstances standing up for yourself should be done.

Self-defence however often puts the other person into a position of being a judge over us. They become the judge and the jury.

“But I didn’t do too badly the other day, did I?”

Once you’re looking for them to make you okay–you’re in trouble. Once you offer your defence who has the power? They do. Don’t give in to that one. Don’t let them have control over you. You shouldn’t put yourself in that lower position.

Another reaction to criticism is shame and inadequacy.

Nearly everyone has a hidden suspicion that there are some parts of themselves that are not really adequate, they’re not very capable.

We develop this early on. It’s something that comes out of childhood. Hopefully we are okay enough, so that rather than wallowing in this, we dig in and find out if we really did make a mistake. It’s okay not to be perfect. We can be flawed and still be a good human being.

We need to find a way to manage us. Though fear, anger, counterattack, denial or blaming, defence, shame and inadequacy, are normal reactions to criticism, every one of them are counterproductive.

This doesn’t imply you can’t have the situation work out okay even if you feel these negative, counter productive responses welling up within. You can still move forward in a way that’s good for you and the other person.

In the vast majority of circumstances, these reactions don’t benefit you or them. You need to take back your power and make sure that you manage your mind, emotions and responses.

The only thing you can control is you. Now is the time.

(to be continued…)

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