OK. I’ll admit it.
“Criticism Hangover” is a word that I just made up – but I bet you know what it means.
It’s that feeling that you used to get when you left the front door open and the cat ran out of the house. You felt like your parents would slice you up like a Christmas turkey as soon as they found out. Am I right?
Now you sometimes get that same feeling at work or home when things go poorly. It’s OK to feel a little anxiety once in awhile. But at times, that knotted stomach is just too much.
I recently learned why this happens and how to cure it.
I sent out what (I thought) was a pretty bland letter to 200 clients.
Out of 200 letters that went out, I received lots of nice responses. But I got three complaints, which is a rare reaction to the letters I send out. And when I read those complaints, it hurt. One was particularly vicious.
I felt completely misunderstood by these three people, and it really bothered me. I was also afraid that one or more of these clients would take their business elsewhere.
This bothered me so much that I completely forgot about the dozens of people who appreciated the letter and told me so.
I was focused completely on the people who were providing negative energy rather than on the positive forces.
I don’t know. I really don’t. I just know that I did, and that I’m not the only one.
The problem was that I felt terrible. As a result of that, I wasn’t able to really focus on work. And anyway, I just don’t like walking around feeling that bad. Nobody does.
The solution I found?
1. Acknowledge the truth
The truth is that you can’t make everybody happy all the time, and you’re not perfect.
Let’s look at two extreme examples:
Think about Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy.
Both of those men were great… And they got assassinated. As great as they were, there were some people who literally hated them.
If people that great could be disliked so much, why should I expect to be loved and cherished by everyone?
What? I’m better than Kennedy or Lincoln? No way.
Your boss is steaming mad because you didn’t get the small business financing you were supposed to secure.
Your husband gives you the silent treatment because you spent too much money on clothes.
Your kid yells at you because you put him on a budget, but forgot to deposit money into his account.
You get a dirty look from the jerk in back of you because you weren’t fast enough parking your car.
OK, you’re not perfect yet. And there are a few people who still aren’t laying roses at your feet today.
What’s new? That’s the way life is.
When I compare my situation (some people are angry at me) to that of assassinated Presidents, I actually cheer up. (That’s a pretty weird thing to do but it helps!)
Thinking about it this way helped me put negative feedback in perspective.
2. Acknowledge my character defect
Most of us want validation and appreciation.
When we don’t get it because we’ve made a mistake, we feel threatened. And the degree to which we feel threatened is way out of proportion to the issue at hand.
Maybe you didn’t order the right movie from Netflix and your wife is ticked off. So what? That can be fixed. She’ll get over it.
I lost a client. It’s happened before. I’m not going to go broke. I’ll just find another.
You lost your job and need to find a new career. That could be a Godsend.
Extreme example… You’re worried sick because you’re facing bankruptcy and you might lose your home. You’re not going to end up in the streets.
Why do we turn these events into catastrophes in our minds? They aren’t.
Kennedy and Lincoln… They faced catastrophes. We face challenges.
Negative feedback is a fact of life (see Point 1). When I got those three complaints, the problem wasn’t with the people who wrote them. The problem was that I didn’t know how to keep things in perspective. The problem was that I needed them to give me validation. And that’s my problem. It’s also unrealistic.
So the second part of the solution is to acknowledge that you may need validation and that has nothing to do with the issue at hand.
Just acknowledge this defect. It’s much better than trying to convince everyone how perfect you are. Believe me, I’ve tried it both ways and the former is far more effective.
How is this going to make you money?
If you apply this tool, you’ll stop looking to others for validation. As a result, you’ll stop trying to convince others how right you are in order to get that validation.
And as a result of that, you’ll argue less and get along better with others.
What would happen to your career if you cut out 90% of the conflicts you have in the workplace?
What would happen at home if 90% of the arguments you had with your spouse suddenly vanished?
Even if you don’t make more money (but I’m convinced that you will), you will feel considerably better by using this approach.
Try it… What have you got to lose?