Monday Mojo – Curb the Critic

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Has someone been pushing your buttons lately?

I’m not sure if Mercury is retrograde again, but there’s definitely something a bit ‘salty’ in the air, when it comes to human interaction.  Everyone seems a bit tense, words get taken out of context, good intentions might pave the way to hellish backlash, and some just seem a bit mean.  If you’ve been navigating social media lately, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

There will always be people who are a bit controversial, who want to provoke a reaction or who seem to enjoy winding others up.  ‘Sealioning’ is a term now used when someone just wants an argument but tries to disguise it as a ‘debate’ – no matter what you say, they’re not listening or interested.  When we’re not attached to them or their opinions, we can let it wash over us.  But when it’s people who we really care about – and probably should do better – what do we do?

Here’s what might help:
This week, maybe set the intention to Curb the Critic. If someone in your orbit is testing your patience with their so-called “feedback”, you’re allowed to let them know they’ve crossed a line. Be specific about what they did or what you need (try to keep it from the ‘I’ position – e.g. “I think, I feel, I would like…”) and don’t be afraid to let them know what the consequence will be if they continue down that road.  You could say “I’m not comfortable with how this conversation is taking shape, I’m going to take a break from it if that doesn’t change”.

Alternatively, you could give them the chance to clarify their point.  For example:
– “When someone speaks to me that way, I feel disrespected.  Can you rephrase what you said more helpfully?”
– “I’m not okay with being interrupted.  How can you help me with that?”
– or, “I don’t feel it’s appropriate to speak about another person/situation/my work/my feelings like that.  How can we take this conversation forward in a meaningful way?”

This way, you’re entering in to a negotiation with the other person at the same time letting them know something needs to change.  If their criticism could be valuable, they can learn to make their point in a more helpful way.  If, however, it’s just to establish control, then you’re allowed to create space between you and them. To paraphrase Brené Brown if they’re not in the arena with you, you don’t have to be interested in their feedback.  Make sure you have supportive people around you, to remind you of that.

If, on the other hand, the critic is coming from within you, and you’re beating yourself up for something that could have gone better, remember to be gentle on yourself.  The perfect person doesn’t exist, so when you find you’re not measuring up, ask yourself the question “compared to what?” You don’t have to give an award winning performance every day.

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© Delphi Ellis 2023