Did you cross paths today with someone who made you doubt your direction or path in life? I’ll bet you can picture a couple of examples right now. They are the “positivity sponges,” sucking up your optimism. But what if I told you that you can stay true to your vision and stay on course, no matter how many “Debbie Downers” you encounter?
Here are the three main types of negative people you encounter and how to deal with them.
We all know a critic. Maybe she’s a co-worker, or maybe she’s your perfectionist mother. Before you roll your eyes at her one more time, stop and really think about who your biggest critic is. It’s not your mom—it’s you.
Often, it’s our own self-doubt that holds us back, the worrying what other people think. We wonder what our friends, family, followers, and influencers see when they look at us. Is it helpful or hurtful to our reputations? So, the endless cycle of self-critique begins at an early age. Over the years I have learned that, no matter how perfect you are, there are just some people you can’t please. Yet there are others who appreciate you just the way you are, with all of your “imperfections”. But in the end, perfection is in the eyes of the beholder.
So why do we criticize ourselves? We are afraid to let ourselves down, which stops us from trying new things. Criticism is in your mind. When we stop worrying what others think of us, we will feel free to think bigger and pursue our dreams.
Then there are those who criticize us out from a place of sadness and pain as opposed to kindness. Those are the ones who rarely add anything valuable or constructive and want to make noise or get attention. There is a wildly successful book written about this concept, How Full Is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and the late Dr. Donald Clifton. To sum it up, we all walk around with invisible “buckets”, which get filled with positive feelings due to kind words, good actions, and more. People with “empty buckets” tend to try to make themselves feel better by making others feel worse (by dipping into your bucket), which only succeeds in making both people feel bad. The important thing to focus on is whether the person who is constantly criticizing you is coming from a low place with an “empty bucket” (lack of confidence, envy, low self-esteem), and then view their behaviors through that lens when deciding how important their viewpoint should be to you.
Dealing With The Critics:
- Don’t let others’ negativity push you to live for other people instead of for yourself.
- Criticism is in your mind. When we stop worrying what others think of us, we feel free to think bigger and pursue our dreams.
We all know at least one Hater. He spends an inordinate amount of time following your every move when trying something different. He sits on the sidelines, heckling, yet raptly paying attention. My experience with haters came last year when I sponsored a concert of a good friend who is also a controversial musician. The haters were following him on Facebook and constantly posting negative comments. The question to me was clear—“It’s OK if you don’t like his music, style, etc., but if you’re so opposed, why do you spend so much time and energy following him and his every movement?” Usually, there was no logical reply.
“Hating” can be an inside job, too. As I continued to accomplish and achieve more, I started to notice the haters within my own family. Close family members were constantly present, whispering hurtful and judgmental comments about my ambition, yet wanting to follow my every move. Unfortunately, you can’t choose your family. I can’t completely rid myself of them, but I don’t have to internalize what they say. I came to the realization with the help of the lessons shared by international bestselling author of The Four Agreements, Miguel Ruiz. As part of Ruiz’s second agreement, he writes “Don’t take anything personally . . . Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.” Because of this, I learned to sincerely wish for those who experience negativity upon hearing others’ good news to find a way to healing peace.
But, what about those “haters” who are not part of the family? I asked Lewis Howes, former professional athlete, author, lifestyle/entrepreneurial coach, and creator of the School of Greatness, how he deals with negative reviews and feedback. He responded: “I used to take everything personally, but that didn’t serve me, nor did it give me a clear head to serve others when I was in that state of mind. Now I look at it all as feedback. Some feedback I use to get better and other feedback I listen to and have learned to let it go.”
The key to flipping the hater switch in your mind is simple. Whether you are a performer, writer, entrepreneur, or motivational coach, place the emphasis on the worth of what you contribute through your gifts instead of defensively feeling you have to protect yourself from critics and haters. Howes, who has interviewed many inspirational and influential personalities beloved by many (including me!), such as Arianna Huffington, Tim Ferriss, Jim Kwik, Jack Canfield, Marie Forleo, Keith Ferrazzi, and Tony Robbins, shared that you can turn a hater into an appreciator by smiling, thanking them for their opinion, and letting them know you appreciate their feedback.
Hushing The Haters:
- Usually, other people’s actions don’t have much to do with you personally. Issues unbeknownst to you could be the reasons they are “hating.”
- Shift your focus from tiptoeing around haters to focus on your gifts and worth that you contribute to the world.
- Appreciate feedback and view comments as just that, feedback, and nothing more. Some you should ignore and some should be used as improvement opportunities, but at the end of the day, it is just someone’s opinion.
Ah, the competitor. It can feel like they’re everywhere. When it comes to competitors, your behavior and response needs to be different than to critics and haters. I’m a competitive ballroom dancer, and during one of my competitions, I was being judged by World and European Latin champion dancer and world renowned choreographer Allan Tornsberg. Tornsberg, who has coached and mentored Dancing With The Stars’ Cheryl Burke, Valentin “Val” and Maksim “Maks” Chmerkovskiy, shared a simple way to face competitors—stay on the sidelines and cheer them on. Entrepreneur and former professional football player Lewis Howes shares a similar attitude when it comes to competing, “If only one person wins, and the other loses, then you both lose. The goal is to create an experience that is beneficial to everyone. So I always come from that place of how can each party benefit and get what they want and make decisions based on that.”
In business, identify who are your main competitors, either for a promotion or landing a deal. Then, find one thing they do better than you or something at which they excel and then commend them for it. If this does not come easily to you, then start small and practice with your team or colleagues. At the next networking event that also includes your competitors, congratulate them for something good that they have accomplished. This is part of social evolution—we are supposed to evolve so the future generation can continue to create, embrace, and execute new ideas. Be grateful for the opportunity to compete—to lose and to win—as there are lessons in each.
Howes shared, “When I focus on my competitors I find myself reacting a lot, and trying to ‘keep up.’ It’s never a good thing. I follow my competitors to learn from them, but my intention is to follow my own race and move towards the vision I set out for myself and my business.”
By failing to meet competition with grace, you may find yourself turning into a critic or a hater, which does no good for anyone.
Constructive Thoughts On Competitors:
- A simple way to face your competitors—stay on the sidelines and cheer them on.
- Take the lead or be part of creating an experience that is beneficial to you and your competitors.
- Follow your competitors to learn from them, but make sure your intention is to run your own race towards your own personal vision, not merely to “keep up with the Joneses”.
If it were not for the critics, haters and competitors, how would society advance? Everyone would remain in their comfort zone. I never let fear (especially of competition) get in my way. I believe and trust in myself. It is important to write and create your own new story—to encourage and inspire others, even your critics, haters, and competitors. If what I have to teach and share is stolen, then I know it is that good. The idea is to inspire and ignite a spark in someone (yes, even a competitor) to reach higher. What we do today, defines how our future generations to come will live. So I encourage healthy competition, I encourage figuring out win-wins for all, and I encourage that we all write our own stories, without fear of someone else’s naysaying opinions.
They say that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” and I’d like to end with this, from Howes: “There is always someone or some ideal to strive far. The key is to strive for it while being yourself.” Be yourself, and the critics, haters and competitors will fade into the background.