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

Dr. Rich Patterson


Respond or Not

We always have a choice whether to respond to criticism or not.  So often we think it is important 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?  I had a supervisor one time tell me that if I didn’t respond to something that people simply would think I agreed with what was being said.  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 10 people come up to me afterwards and tell me that it was a great performance and one person criticizes me.  Guess what I concentrate on?  That one criticism.  I play it over and over totally ignoring all the other positive remarks.  Are you the same?

It is far better to simply not respond and let them have their thoughts as they may.  If you must say something, then simply 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 they are criticized by their friends and that was the advice that 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, simply look at them and say, “Thanks for sharing that with me.”  Then vote with your feet and walk away, being sure to not look back.  (Thanks to Jim Fay for this idea)

I think the next step above this statement is to simply not 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.  Simple continue to show up every day, do you best, help others and keep going—relentlessly.

Let me know your thoughts . . .