Ever since I was little, I’ve always thought of myself as being pretty tough. I was a tomboy back then, so bumps and scrapes on my knees and elbows were an everyday thing. I’d go digging in the backyard for worms in order to help my mother’s garden grow, dirt and grime caked under my fingernails and grass stains on my awesome Levi’s jean shorts. The boys in the neighborhood always played basketball and while I was with “the girls” practicing cheerleading routines, I secretly wished I could be shooting hoops with the boys. No one could ever say anything to make me upset. I did as I pleased, and if anyone criticized me, I simply smiled and waved it off with a flick of my hand.
Of course, as I’ve gotten older, my habits and interests have changed. I am much less of a tomboy now, although I still crave adventure and spontaneity more often than not. I have noticed that as I’ve grown up, the “thick skin” I once had as a child is slowly wearing away. I do feel more emotional at times and when someone criticizes me, I tend to take it personally, even though I know I shouldn’t. That’s what I get for being a perfectionist.
So in an effort to redevelop this thick skin, I thought I’d share some advice I found. I figure I can’t be the only one who feels the need to toughen up. Each piece of advice has a related situation underneath it, although I think these can be used in almost any situation that comes your way.
Remember: It’s Not You; It’s the Situation
During a game, coaches and players can yell and scream and make very personal comments — which is when I remind myself that they’re just upset about the call. They aren’t attacking me. Instead of bristling and reacting, I calmly ask, “Are you talking to me?” or “What did you say?” With those questions, I give the person a chance to back off and take stock of what he’s saying. My unruffled demeanor causes the coach or player to reassess his own approach.
Practice Selective Listening
The setup and menu at my restaurant are unorthodox. The cuisine is from a specific region in Thailand, the dishes are meant to be shared, and most of the plates should be eaten with your hands or just a spoon. Not everyone is going to enjoy the experience, but I can’t always accommodate everyone’s desires and expectations. If I did, I would be serving generic meals, because I would be trying to please everybody instead of doing what I do best.
Get Angry, Not Sad
When I first started writing, I had a very hard time getting published. Over the course of 14 years, I collected about 250 rejection slips. I could have just gotten hurt and depressed. But I chose to become defiant, saying to myself, “Someday they’ll be sorry. I’ll write an even better story, and I won’t send it to them.” To this day, each time I’m criticized, I take that negative energy and use it to go back to work and push even harder.
Focus on Something Good About Your Criticizer
When you anticipate a hurtful comment, you relay fear or dread with your eyes and/or body language — and that will make the critique more likely to happen. So try this: Find a positive attribute of the person criticizing you. It could be as minor as the color of her fingernail polish or the charming way she laughs. Think about that the next time you see her and your warmth will be reflected in your eyes and your demeanor. She will feel respected, and nine times out of 10, she’ll reciprocate back to you.
Via Real Simple
Picture from Restart My Heart.