Group of young adults (18-20 years) hanging out in the city, telling stories.

Dr. Rich Patterson


Respond or Not

We always have a choice whether to respond to criticism or not.  So often think it is essential to let people know how we feel or that their perspective is misinformed.  So, we launch into this explanation, defense, or maybe even an emotional display when silence can be just as effective.

What if we just ignored their comments?  What would happen?  One time, I had a supervisor tell me that people would think I agreed with what was said if I didn’t respond to something. I’ve thought about that over the years and know that now, that isn’t always true either.  Sometimes yes, you need to let people know that you’re not in agreement with something.  But that isn’t what we’re looking at here Today.

If I am giving a speech or a musical performance and I have ten people come up to me afterward and tell me that it was an excellent performance, and one person criticizes me.  Guess what I remember?  That one criticism.  I play it repeatedly, totally ignoring all the other positive remarks.  Are you the same?

It is far better not to respond and let them have their thoughts as they may.  If you must say something, say, “Thanks for sharing that with me.” I delivered a series of five speeches to elementary kids recently on Friendship.  These were kids ranging from first grade to fifth grade.

We talked about what to do when their friends criticize them, which was the advice I gave them.  Stand there with your hands in your pockets, smiling—you’ve got to be smiling during their performance because that makes it even more irritating to them, so smiling and swaying back and forth.  When they are finished, look at them and say, “Thanks for sharing that with me.” Then vote with your feet and walk away, not looking back.  (Thanks to Jim Fay for this idea)

The next step above this statement is not to say anything.  I have used this over the years and received very positive feedback from others who were very complimentary of my nature toward these situations.  People will see you with an inner strength that is uncommon today.

You don’t need to explain yourself.  You don’t need to make everyone understand you.  Just focus on what you’re doing and keep doing it.  Continue to show up every day, do your best, and help others relentlessly.

Your next level of understanding this is in this next post, The Art of Conversation – Dr. Rich Patterson (

Tara Brach, Ph.D., has an article in Psychology Today on Responding worth reading.  Click here; It’s Not What’s Happening… It’s How You Respond | Psychology Today

Let me know your thoughts!

Yours for Better Parenting,