How to Receive Criticism (and Shake Haters Off)

How to Receive Criticism (And Shake Haters Off)

This Fascinating Adventure

Image of confetti background with white text inside black shadow box. Text reads: “I carry a small sheet of paper in my wallet that has written on it the names of people whose opinions of me matter. To be on that list, you have to love me for my strengths and struggles.” ~Brene Brown
Brené Brown: A Fellow Texan

When someone doesn’t sign off on what we think, feel, say, or do, it can be hurtful. When I started to save money, pay off debt, and generally work toward financial stability, oddly, there were a few naysayers along the way. Why it matters to other people, I don’t know. Nevertheless, we are an opinionated species, and I certainly encountered my share of criticism. 

Making changes can be hard, and it becomes even harder when we start to sense disapproval and potentially question ourselves. From the opposite end, watching someone change can be hard, and others may have a hard time adapting. What to do, what to do…

For the Standard Hater

To begin with, I am not talking about getting feedback from someone I admire and respect. That is a different animal, which I will address as well. At this point, I am talking about the run-of-the-mill, shits on people to feel better about themselves, picks fights on the internet, no dog in the fight, malefactor. 

Now I am not vain enough to act as if there is a whole trope of trollios watching my every move and discussing it amongst themselves as they ooze jealousy. This isn’t my reality, and most times I am surrounded by the most supportive people. Every now and then, though, a hater pops out of the bushes and startles me.

Long ago, when I was a wee pup, and very much a naive people-pleaser, I asked my aunt, “Why do people hate people?” (Awww..tres cute—I can say that about myself, right?) My aunt is extremely intelligent and has seen some shit in her life. She is also strong, gentle, and compassionate. While things happened in her life that could’ve hardened her, she remained soft, but tough. Her response was “Well hon, haters gonna hate. It’s what they do.” A lightbulb moment for me. 

When asking why someone is giving us such a hard shakedown for apparently no reason, sometimes the answer simply is: It’s what they do. It’s not personal. If it weren’t directed at me, it would be at someone else. It’s all they know, and there isn’t anything I can do, except steer clear. 

Sometimes knowing the “why” is helpful. Knowing why someone responds the way they do can allow empathy to be cultivated, minds and hearts to be opened, and new perspectives to be considered. This ain’t that. It’s unfortunate, but a truth I try to live by is: Choose yourself first. It’s not selfish. It’s surviving and thriving. Don’t get sucked into the hater’s web at your own expense. Choose yourself first. 

For the Acquaintance

There are countless situations where I have tried to do something awesome, and have been faced with criticism or feedback discouraging my awesomeness. I feel certain that every human being has experienced this to some degree. 

An example for me is: this blog. While it is not up to the awesome standards I want it to be (someday Daniel-San), I gain a lot of joy from writing and general dabbling. Sometimes I do my writing at the local cigar shop. My husband works at this cigar shop for fun as a side-gig (he luuurves cigars), and we’ve met some really phenomenal people there. We know all of the regulars, and have fostered some truly exceptional friendships. 

While clacking away, writing the next post, I’ve been asked what I am working on. 90% of the responses have been variations of, “Oh that’s so cool, you’re so cool, let’s be friends, I wanna read it.” These people exhibit true interest and are appreciated more than I could ever express. 

But there’s the inevitable 10% who respond, “Weird, personal finance, how boring, how cute, most blogs aren’t successful, good luck with your little project.” What do I say to these people, some who don’t know me at all? I say, “Oh thanks so much!” And get back to work. 

Their opinion doesn’t matter to me. This could be unrelated, but I am also a petite lady who looks much younger than I am, so I am used to condescension. At this point, it rolls off me. In all aspects, whether it’s professional or personal, I don’t stop to argue with inadvertent superiority. 

Instead, I keep my eyes on my lane and either the person moves on, sometimes never to be seen again, or they eventually take me seriously. Obviously I prefer the latter, but if they don’t, I don’t stay in this place too long. It’s possible this is just the introvert in me, but I don’t see this as a worthwhile space to spend my life’s energy. 

For Loved Ones

These are the people I respect and admire. This group usually consists of family and my dearest friends. Do we always agree? Nope to the nth power. However, we do collectively try to understand one another. Being curious about another’s point of view has only ever served to make me a better human being. 

For my loved ones, thankfully, we all generally have healthy boundaries. Or at least, we try to! Part of this includes remembering that We Are All Grown-Ups. I may not sign off on someone else’s choices, or they on mine, but good news! Mutual approval is unnecessary for individual choices. If there are certain topics that I know someone else is uninterested in, or disagrees with, I rarely bring them up, unless it is in the context of talking about myself. I receive this same treatment in kind. 

Boundary Setting

Boundaries aren’t easy to set into place TAT TALL. For me, it has taken thoughtful effort and true consideration of the other person, as well as myself. It has also taken time and patience. Here is another take on boundary setting from Oprah (I feel the same way about Oprah as Liz Lemon does).

First, I begin by asking myself, what boundary do I want to set in place? An example could be: I don’t want commentary on my choice to not spend money on things I do not value. 

Second, I set the boundary. Most times, I try to do this in the moment, the next time it happens, or I can choose to set it separate from an event. I might say, “I want to discuss the statements you made about me being cheap. It’s not ok with me that you choose to comment on my spending habits. I’d like that subject to be off-limits.”

Third, I enforce my boundary line if necessary. If my boundary line is violated, dpending on the scenario, I may say, “I noticed you brought up my choice to not spend money on certain things. I’m concerned you aren’t respecting my boundary. We cannot continue this conversation if you will not respect my request.”

Fourth, I follow through. If they persist, then I leave the conversation. I try not to leave in a huff, but I am sure to stick to my guns. I can’t expect anyone to adhere to my boundaries if I don’t. 

Dealing with loved ones can be difficult. Some loved ones are more understanding than others. I cannot pretend to have all the answers to especially challenging situations. All I can do is try my best in the moment, vent to someone outside the situation, and try to practice love and compassion toward others while extending the same courtesy to myself. In that same vein, when someone sets a boundary with me, I remain mindful of their request. 

Take-Aways

Haters suck. I will have a million acquaintances in my life, I don’t have to win over every single one. Loved ones are worth devoting time and energy toward. 

About four years ago, I received a strongly worded email from a colleague about a statement I made in a staff meeting. This colleague (incorrectly) assumed I was negatively talking about her when I made a comment in the meeting. I wasn’t, and I was floored. I asked a dear friend who is quite level-headed what he does when he receives unfounded criticism. He advised this:

Ask yourself: 
  • Are they right? Is their feedback fair? Is there a perspective I am missing when I look at the situation?
  • Do I respect them? Does their opinion matter to me? Do I value their insight?
If both of these questions are answered with No’s, move on; no change necessary. Not your circus, not your monkeys. 

This is not to discount any and all criticism we may receive over our lifetimes. There are many times where I have been corrected, or made to see a different point of view. This, I am so very grateful for.

Shaking haters off does not release me of reflective thinking or my responsibility to be considerate of others while maintaining my integrity. However, sometimes, haters are just gonna hate. It’s what they do. What I do next is my choice, and this is where my power lies. 

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