Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

The Essential Guide to (Not) Responding to Critics

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Face it. Life is full of critics. If you’re going to do work that matters, you’re going to endure criticism. Call them “haters” or skeptics or just downright jerks — the bottom line is these people are inescapable.

Sooner or later, if you’re doing your job right, you’re going to find someone who disagrees with you. And that’s fine. Because what you do with criticism is what really counts.

Art Critic Photo

Photo credit: Allan Henderson (Creative Commons)

Two types of people

There are two types of people when it comes to responding to critics:

  1. People who try to please everyone.
  2. People who try to fulfill their mission in life, even if it means ruffling feathers.

The first group is the one that I belong to. I am a recovering people-pleaser; I want to be liked by everyone, which, I’ve found, is a mathematical impossibility. But that doesn’t stop me from trying.

The problem with this type of person is that satisfaction rests solely on the happiness of others. If someone else is unhappy, so are you.

And let me tell you a depressing fact of life: Someone else is always unhappy.

The cure for the criticism addiction

Those of us who are dying for people to love and adore our work — and I’m one of them — have an addiction. We hear 99 positive reviews and one negative critique, and guess which one sticks?

This is what Jon Acuff calls “critic’s math,” and it only makes you miserable.

When our obsession with appeasing audiences continues, things get out of control. Our fixation with approval turns into an appetite for affirmation — and that’s when things start to get really hairy.

Fortunately, there’s a cure for this malady. A simple solution that we are wont to avoid: Stop listening to people who aren’t saying anything.

“I don’t say nuthin…”

When I first moved to Nashville, I spent a day a week volunteering at the rescue mission, where hundreds of homeless men were fed every day.

I had the privilege of working alongside an older African-American gentleman, who was the picture of humility and wisdom. At 70 years old, Ed was exactly who I wanted to be in about 50 years.

One day, Ed and I were walking through the courtyard, and a man stopped us. He tried to give Ed a high five and started using what I can only describe as “urban slang.” He seemed to think that since he and my friend shared the same skin color that they would understand each other. He was wrong.

My friend smiled and nodded but kept walking. When he did, the man started cussing him out. This didn’t seem to bother Ed.

The next week, we saw the man again. He was downright belligerent, and Ed didn’t even stop to talk this time. When I asked him why he didn’t defend himself or explain his actions, Ed said something I will never forget:

I don’t say nuthin’ if I don’t hear nuthin’.

That mantra has become a staple for me in how I respond to criticism. It should be for you, too.

When this matters

Do you have a troll who unfairly blasts every word you write?

An impossible-to-please skeptic who questions every sermon you preach, every song you play, every lesson you teach?

Maybe just a neighbor who gives you a hard time every time you cut the grass?

We all have them. The question is: When do you respond to these people, and when do you ignore them?

There is one simple way to know the answer: Are they saying something or nothing? Are they giving you a helpful critique, because they care? Or are they just picking a fight?

If the latter, move on.

Isn’t all criticism beneficial?

Some say all criticism is useful. I disagree.

This is the same group that came up with the “sticks and stones” chant — it’s not true. Names do hurt, and criticism can be deadly to your creativity. So stop giving it the power it doesn’t deserve; stop responding to people who aren’t saying anything.

Certain critics can’t be pleased. And in the grand scheme of things, they shouldn’t be the ones you’re trying to impress, anyway.

If you’re going to worry about people hating your work, why not entrust that responsibility to those who deserve it? Like your friends and family? Sadly, this is something few performers, authors, and artists do.

But what if we stopped trying to impress strangers and responding to people who aren’t saying anything? Well, then, we might actually be creating art and not just entertaining the masses. Good luck with that (you’ll need it).

Don’t forget: Today I’m doing a webinar with Derek Halpern on how to build a blog that converts — sign for free here! (If you’re not sure if you can make it, go ahead and sign up anyway and we’ll try to send you the replay.)

By the way, I’m guest posting on The Minimalists today: Downsizing Your Life to Live Your Dream. Check it out.

What about you? Do you waste time responding to people who aren’t saying anything? Share in the comments.

*Photo credit: Allan Henderson (Creative Commons)

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. Check out my new book, The In-Between. To get exclusive updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • http://www.michaelnichols.org/about Michael Nichols

    Great reminders Jeff! If you are leading people, criticism happens. I’ve given much thought to criticism – most of my time was wasted. 

    But I’ve also learned some things from my critics – I listed 6 things I learned from my critics in a recent post | http://www.michaelnichols.org/6-things-i-learned-from-critics/.

    • http://bobholmes.blogspot.com/ Bob Holmes

       Thanks Michael! You’ve got some good practical wisdom here.

      • http://www.michaelnichols.org/about Michael Nichols

        Thanks Bob!

    • http://www.shawnweekly.com/ Shawn Weekly

       Great Post Michael.

      • http://www.michaelnichols.org/about Michael Nichols

        Thanks Shawn!

  • http://www.abidingingrace.com/ A. Gonzales

    As always…awesome Jeff!! I too am a recovering people pleaser!  Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/mommyhoodnxtrt Jessica F. Hinton

    I love Ed’s perspective! I am a recovering people pleaser, too, so I know that it, or being a people pleaser, is exhausting and impossible.  Now, I respond only when necessary. Some criticism, when well intended, is good and responding is good, too. But for the other variety, the low blows, personal insults– they’re ignored. In one ear out the other.

  • http://inhisloveministries.blogspot.com/ Pilar Arsenec

    I struggle from the same malady… People pleasing. I bend over backgrounds to try and make people happy. I struggle when I am criticized, because I was put down and criticized alot since I was a kid. So criticism is like poison to my spirit. I do not process it right either based on not having a threshhold for it. I believe this factor and the competition element stopped me from expressing myself as an actress, singer and writer. The only thing I manage to do with confidence is cooking because I never got criticized by my cooking or baking. People just love what I make which makes me want to do it more. Anyway, sorry for this comment being so long. Count this as my writing for the day… I Am A Writer. Thanks Jeff, you are a true blessing to me.

  • http://twitter.com/MarieDTiger Marie D. Tiger

    This post is very timely for me. I also recognize the recovering people pleaser in myself. Every time I receive criticism, I still automatically think I did something wrong. But I’m learning to sort out the useful from the stuff to be ignored.

    I notice I’m wasteing time answering someone’s criticism when the response is a “Yes but then you also ___________” several times. To me, that is a sign of someone who just wants to tear down what is, instead of building something better than before.

  • http://www.theshooflyproject.blogspot.com/ Katie Boyts

    Thank you so much for this post. It’s timing is impeccable… Just yesterday I received my first negative comment on my blog from an “anonymous” reader. It was a snide, cutting, and blow towards my work but also my personality. I was struggling with how to respond or if I should at all. Your piece here answered that question definitively and I really appreciate the wise words. Keep up this work you’re doing… It’s fantastic, accessible, and incredibly practical. 

    • Katie Boyts

      pardon the typos and grammatical errors. :) 

    • http://www.delemares.wordpress.com/ sandra delemare

      I always tend to ignore ‘anonymous’ comments. If someone hasn’t the courage to put their name to it, is it worth bothering with?
      I’m also a recovering people pleaser.
      Good post as ever, Jeff

      • http://twitter.com/AdventureCarrie Carrie Starr

        Couldn’t agree with you more Sandra!  If someone lacks the courage to own their comment, they don’t need a reply.  An excellent guideline.

  • http://www.atlumschema.com Andy Mort

    Thanks Jeff. These are important words to remember every day. I’ve always been a people pleaser with a rebellious nature that is desperate to be unleashed. Alignment is tricky, but then most of us are pretty similar to this I think.  I imagine you’re quite a lot like that.  You want to radically change things but also please people.  ‘People’ don’t like to hear about change.  Dialogue is the key to change and if you don’t hear nuthin’ then nuthin’ productive or creative is happening. Great work, Jeff!

  • Eddie @ The Usual Mayhem

    Well put! It’s hard not to engage, but very neccessary to remember at times.

  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

    Maybe I’m doing something wrong. No one jumps my case on my blog. Maybe I need to up the ante.

    • http://twitter.com/CreateWriteNow Mari L. McCarthy

      Larry,  I think that you are confident and comfortable in your own skin and the energy you give out attracts like minded individuals. WriteON! 

      • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

        Could be. I would probably take an approach of thanking someone anyway for posting and tell them I understood their position.

  • http://messymiddle.com/ Amy Young

    Just last week I had a commenter that I couldn’t tell at first if they were a legit critic or a troll. I did what you suggested: thanked, gave a very short response and moved on. They responded again with more criticism — again, short response from me, thanked and moved on (though I did think about and pray about what they had said). Guess what — yup, another two, longer, and blasting comments. At that point I didn’t respond and haven’t heard from them since. Thanks for laying this process out so clearly.

    • http://www.delemares.wordpress.com/ sandra delemare

      Good one, Amy. Give them the benefit of the doubt once, maybe twice. Then ignore and move on. I tend to think that people like that are very insecure.

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

       Good to see the application laid out so clearly.

  • http://bobholmes.blogspot.com/ Bob Holmes

    Boy, you sound fired up Jeff. You’ve really tackled some meat here. The deflection of your aged friend is priceless.

    I’ve got a good friend like him, and he amazes me. You know how crabs in a bucket will keep pulling the one who’s escaping back in. He says you have to get out of the crab bucket.  To respond is to jump into the bucket.

    Isn’t there a proverb about grabbing a dog’s ears? You can’t let go without getting bit.

    Thanks Jeff.

  • http://rebootingworship.com/ Jamie Kocur

    I haven’t had any trolls or haters on my own blog (thankfully…I don’t think I’m ready for that yet) but I’ve run into a few on others. I’ll leave comments on other blogs and have had some people leave surprisingly rude responses. I thought I could just let it roll off my back, as it’s some random person I’ve never met. Their opinion of me isn’t worth squat. Unfortunately, I found that I would usually fume over it all day and fight the urge to respond back. It’s sad how much power these people can hold, only because I let them.

  • http://christananarchistwriter.tumblr.com/ C.A. Writer

    Amen.  Sad thing is that I am my own worst critic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kathryne.leach Kate Leach

    Excellent admonition, Jeff. Oops, that was positive affirmation. Lol. I fall into the trap of letting critics push my buttons and becoming offended. I plan to take your (Ed’s) advice. It will save tender heart. Thanks!

  • Katina Vaselopulos

    Thanks Jeff for making a great point!
    I am a pleaser who by nature likes to make people happy and do all I can to do that. But if someone, family, friends or outsiders is nasty about it, I’ll walk away and will not feed with arguments their need to be argumentative. I learned that from my mom when I was very young. 
    One day, she and I were walking, and a man made an improper remark to her. She looked at him and walked away. He came back with words like “coward” and more, demanding her engagement in conversation, yelling at her. She turned back and said: “My silence is your answer!” and walked away without another word. He never bathered her again.
    In my writing, I will take positive criticism and learn from it. Nasty arguments? I will not only not engage in them, but I will not allow them to hurt my feelings either!

  • http://www.themakegoodchoicesproject.org/ Michael Hawkins

    I love the last paragraph of your post.  We should all strive to create art. 

    So far, I haven’t received any nasty comments on my blog.   But when I do (and I’m sure I will) I will remember this post. 

    Your friend, Ed, is a wise man.

    P.S.:  How is Aiden doing?

  • http://www.liveyourwhy.net/ Terry Hadaway

    Great post, Jeff. There are lots of people who criticize in order to preserve their positions of power. As long as things are their ideas, everything is great. However, when an idea is offered that doesn’t shine the light on them, they attack. Unfortunately, many people work in this environment.

    Criticism often is an outward expression of the refusal to think. I don’t like to engage non-thinking people, so responding to criticism isn’t necessary unless the criticism is offered in a constructive way.

    As a college professor, I have had my share of critics (usually a subset of those who didn’t do their work and, subsequently, didn’t do well in the course). I don’t worry about criticism unless it comes from someone whose opinion I value. Therefore, I always listen to criticism from my wife, sons, and daughters-in-law!

  • http://JaredLatigo.com/ Jared Latigo

    I’d like to think I’m pretty good at not recognizing when someone does that. It honestly hasn’t happened to me too often, but I’m guessing it will more that I’m trying to get my work out in the world. 

    Your friend you mentioned must have been a very wise man. As I read through Proverbs, I find how important and illusive wisdom can be, but how much it really affects our lives. I think that ties into this perfectly…have the wisdom to discern what you really need to pay attention to. Thanks Jeff!

  • Catherine McKinney

    Another great post Jeff. Reporters are often told that if they are not receiving negative criticism, not annoying someone, then the reporter is not doing his job very well. Not for every story, but for many.

    A very successful painter friend once told me, during show openings, when the comments become heated and personal, smile and say thank you. Then move on. Just don’t engage.

    Glad you tell your stories. It gives us all ideas to consider.
     

  • http://www.janicelanepalko.com/ Janice Lane Palko

    Great post. In addition to being a recovering people pleasure, I’m also a recovering perfectionist.  I’m an editor in my day job as well as a writer and no matter how hard I try, the occasional typo gets by me.  I used to agonize over errors, but now I’ve learned that I have not come with a mistakeiw Sometimes I agonize over it, but ufii

  • http://twitter.com/AdventureCarrie Carrie Starr

    Wonderful Jeff!  I’m a recovering people pleaser as well and have stopped listening quite a bit myself.

     I try to always think the best of others.  When they’re critical, I give them the benefit of the doubt.  I choose to assume they mean well and are trying to help me.  If  what they say is helpful, I listen.  If it’s just hurtful, damaging or completely off base,  I try to ignore it. 

    Not everyone is going  to “get” me.  Many people will not agree with me, my opinions or my work.  Each day I become more okay with this.  The more I invest in my writing, the more I love it.  I don’t want to let anyone rob me of that joy!

  • http://www.thesacredlifeofrain.com/ rain

    I used to. Now I don’t have the energy. I love this quote:

    “Never waste your time trying to explain who you are to people who are committed to misunderstanding you.”

    Dream Hampton  

  • Sharon O

    This gives me loads to think about. I really don’t worry about the opinion of others. I write for the soul purpose of encouragement, challenging others to think differently, and for the the Lord. Sometimes I have posted a ‘blog’ writing after spending a lot of time on and my ‘husband’ will say, “it was good but you have done better”…at that moment it is a choice to let that go in and say. “you are not a writer” or I can say “let’s take a look at it and see what he sees”. If it was all about audience appeal this lady would not be writing at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.gedon Steve Gedon

    Great Post. As a recovering People-Pleaser Pastor who tends to focus on the one criticism more than anything, I’ve found the only real help is solitude and silence. “Know Thyself” I need to be OK within my own skin. Let me HIGHLY recommend a good book on emotional Spirituality that is a great read. “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero. It really helps with is issue for criticism and critics as children of God.

    • http://twitter.com/tammyhelfrich Tammy Helfrich

      I loved that book. There is so much wisdom in there!

  • http://marleeward.com/ Marlee

    I love this story, Jeff. I felt like I could hear Ed’s words. I do my best not to feed a critic without reason, but I also try to look at different viewpoints objectively. I know where I stand on my message and my mission, so I think it can only be sharpened by attempted to see the other side of the coin – even if it’s a critical one. I try my best not to take the criticism personal, but look for the opportunity to take whatever upside I can squeeze out. And…in the end, 
    I don’t say nuthin’ if I don’t hear nuthin’. :)

  • http://www.eileenknowles.com Eileen

    Well said, Jeff.  As a recovery people pleaser too, this resonates with me.  It’s an exhausting and unending treadmill to be on.  Thanks for the reminder to stay clear of it. 

  • Amanda Mianecki

    As I was reading this, I was thinking of a person who has been saying a whole lot of nuthin’ about the way I am living my life.  As a fellow recovering people-pleaser, (thank you for that admission–it makes me feel better about my people-pleasing tendencies) it has been difficult to keep silent.  Your words are encouraging.  Thank you!

  • http://www.cynrogalski.com/ Cyn Rogalski

    This is the second thing I’ve read on this subject in the last 20 minutes! OK God, I got it! Thanks for hitting me over the head with it! And thanks Jeff, for being part of His plan to make me listen.

  • http://www.joyfilleddays.com/ Sarah Beals

    Encountered my first “troll” last week. Hate speech, etc…with no real advice. They were leaving comments on my FB page and my blog. :) I asked my friend Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy what to do and she pointed me to #4 in  this article: http://www.conversiondiary.com/2012/04/7-quick-takes-friday-vol-160-2.html

  • http://twitter.com/tammyhelfrich Tammy Helfrich

    Great post, Jeff. I have learned that many times people criticize for reasons that have nothing to do with you. Your advice is great. When we don’t react defensively, it often catches them off guard and they back down. But, some people just want to instigate and criticize.

    I have learned to have a group of people that I trust who will help keep me in check and be honest with me. Beyond that, there will always be critics and learning how to deal with them is great advice that we can all use.

  • http://www.peaceforthejourney.com/ elaine @ peace for the journey

    Well, not as it pertains to my writing. But in the church? Well, as a preacher’s wife, I spend entirely too much time responding to folks who seem to be saying a whole lot of nuthin’.

    Powerful word picture; powerful truth. Now, to keep the lesson as my own.

    peace~elaine

  • Becky Daye

    Excellent post for all recovering people pleasers!  My biggest critics happen to be in my family, so that has been a unique struggle.  Galatians 1:10 has become my mantra- “Am I now trying to win the approval of man or of God?  If I am still trying to please men, I am not a servant of Christ.”  I am learning that writing is about faithfulness to what God is calling me to.  And if my words are pleasing to Him, then I am a complete success!
    Thank you, Jeff, for being faithful in YOUR writing!  I have been so blessed by every post, every newsletter and of course your book.

    • http://www.hotchristiangumbo.com/ Christian Gumbo

      I love your reference to the scripture to put our work into perspective. When we answer whose approval we are trying to win, it makes our decision to keep creating that much easier.

  • Lauren

    THIS is a fabulous post. I’m keeping it. It’s amazing how many times students tell me that ‘so and so’ said ‘this and such’ about horsemanship. Well, ‘so and so’ isn’t a rider and knows nothing about horses. So how can that possibly be relevant?

  • http://twitter.com/BrookeWrites Brooke McGlothlin

    I needed that. Thanks Jeff. 

  • http://twitter.com/lornafaith Lorna Faith

    Great story Jeff and wonderful post. I like what you said:  “If you’re going to worry about people hating your work, why not entrust that responsibility to those who deserve it? Like your friends and family?”  So True.I’m a bit of a people-pleaser myself, and I need to stop trying to ‘impress strangers’ or respond to people who aren’t saying anything. Still learning…

  • Krystal Lynn

    I love what Ed said, what a wise man.  I kinda march to the beat of my own drum so I am not really a people pleaser,  however,  I do let a family member (ok, my mom) criticize my hair, weight, career choices in the past, children, friends….and I think I am going to stop listening.  What a great post to come across.

  • http://tcavey.blogspot.com/ TCAvey

    ‘ I don’t say nuthin’ if I don’t hear nuthin’.Love it! Great motto to have in reserve!Sometimes it can be difficult to filter the good criticism from the bad. I try to filter it through the eyes of God and see if there is something I can learn from or if it is only meant to hurt me. If it’s intended to hurt, I TRY and take it to God and leave it there (not always successful at that).

  • http://www.jonstallings.com Jon Stallings

    I also am a people pleaser. To be honest a critic will cut deep into my ego / self-esteem. I am learning how to just says nuthin – or to put it another way:  I choose my battles wisely.  The fact is that if I have not offended you lately just stick around, the day will come.

  • http://www.shawnweekly.com/ Shawn Weekly

    Great Post!  I have had my fair share of Haters, Trolls, Critics, and Know it alls online.  For the most part I attempt to vet them according to intention.   A couple of years ago I wrote a 4 part post entitled, “How Haters Help”.  (http://www.shawnweekly.com/tag/haters)  In the post I attempt to view the positive aspect of having haters, eventually arriving at they help us Achieve our Purpose.

    With that said, not to be a “Hater”, or a Critic.   I believe we run the risk of throwing the baby out with the bath water, if we immediately adapt the Ed school of thought by stating “I don’t say nothing, if I don’t hear nothing”.   Let me also state my intention is not to belittle Ed’s experience nor attempt to judge his motives.  However, it appears to me that the guy in which Ed didn’t extend a high-5 to, took it as disrespect, he most likely took it as Ed looking down his nose at him.  I would imagine Ed is a stand up guy, since he was volunteering there in the first place, and his intentions were not to disrespect the gentleman.  One thing you have to understand is in many African American community often “Respect”, is so huge that people are willing to lay down their lives to get it.   Although, it may sound silly or childish, the sad reality is it’s many peoples reality.  So knowing this, I probably would have turned made eye contact with the guy and say, “My bad br’er, I didn’t mean to diss you” and try and start a conversation.  Of course online interactions are much different, but still I believe critics have their place.

    It is my opinion that you have to do a bit of prospecting and digging beneath the surface of what’s being said, and ask yourself  some tough questions.

    1.) What was my motivation for my stance? (Why didn’t I shake his hand?)
    2.) Does this person make any valid points? (Is there a valid school of thought regardless of my opinion)
    3.) Was my stance clear? (As a writer and communicator I always revisit this question)
    4.) Is the opportunity to build a relationship more important than my stance?

    After I have spent a few moments, determining if there is something actually being said, that I didn’t hear….  then I either respond (with the intention of a healthy dialog), leave the comment be (These are typically comments that are meant to be funny ie: You look like …), or flag as spam (These are typically comments that just have no place on the internet).

    Thanks again for your insight Jeff, I have been thoroughly enjoying your posts.

  • lynnh11

    One thing that has served me well in my life that I hope will serve me just as well in my writing life is the determination to not take things personally.  When someone is being critical, it says a whole lot more about THEM than it does about ME.  I can’t always remember that in the moment (yep, recovering people-pleaser here, too) but the more I practice the less and less time it takes to get there.

    Two things have become VERY apparent in my years of intense Internet exploration: 

    1)  There are a LOT of people out there who find it empowering, entertaining, or for some reason worth spending their lives cutting other people down and finding fault, often in very nasty ways.  It’s a bizarre subculture that I don’t understand….and it has nothing to do with me!

    2)  If you have something worth saying, you’re gonna get criticized.  If you’re not getting criticized, you’re selling yourself short and not using your full voice.  The people who make a mark are willing to pay the price of criticism in order to be heard and to stand for something.

    Thanks, Jeff — another great article!

  • http://twitter.com/rhausler Ray Hausler

    I’ve done really well (I think) with most critics. Except for one. There is the one critic who’s personal relationship to me is so important that I want to please them as much as possible. And it has kept me from being creative. I’m learning to “not hear” that one person in my head anymore so that I can be the writer I know that I am supposed to be.

  • http://rkweblog.com/ Rich Kirkpatrick

    The trolls get bored pretty quick with you say nuthin. Thanks for the needed reminder, Jeff.

  • Laura

    Yes, all my life. Other people’s opinions and comments mattered more to me than my own desires. At the age of 52 I received a huge wake-up call when the man I loved, and had spent years trying to please, left and took everything.  Devastation barged through the door.

    BUT, I learned to look at what I wanted moving forward. What made my heart sing? What did I want to do? Who did I want to be with, listen to, or write for. Turns out I wanted to do those things with, and for, ME.

    It’s been a big change in thinking, a 180 degree pivot, but now I ask myself first before I do anything. If it feels good, resonates, or touches my soul I do it. If not, I re-think and revise. Life is too short not to be lived with ourselves as the primary force. It doesn’t mean we don’t strive to please others, but I now only do it if pleasing others enhances my life as well.

    Hard lesson learned, but well worth the effort. Chronic people pleasers are the ones who lose right along with everyone else unless we decide we’re important enough to enjoy life on our terms.

    Thanks for a great post!

  • Mae

    Thank you.  This is worth printing out and placing in my The Future is Now file…

  • http://ikissedmydategoodnight.com/ Ruth Rutherford

    Reading your blog makes me smarter, because I usually have to Google 1-2 words every time I read. Today’s word: malady. It is NOT, as I originally thought, the proper way to address a lady who is yours. Sigh.

    Great post!

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    Great post Jeff. Like you I’ve fell into the people pleaser category in the past, not anymore! Most of the time the critics are just jealous that you have the courage to take action. While names do hurt we should always focus on the why of what we’re doing.

    I remember reading an interview with Lance Armstrong and they asked him why he got back on the bike when so many critics told him he shouldn’t his response was: “I didn’t get back on the bike for them”, simple yet profound!

  • Kim

    This is so timely for me. In two days, I had two different people insult my work: one my latest blog entry, the other Zumba class I teach. With both critics, I just wasn’t up to snuff. At the same time, I got dozens of positive comments from others. Whose feedback do I dwell on? The two critics. It’s maddening! I keep repeating this mantra: ”Set yourself free–live for an audience of One.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/denise.plunk Denise Parton Plunk

    Just what I needed today!! Oh my, thank you so very much! You are so right. Thank you thank you!!

  • http://www.nurturingcreativity.net/ Denise Urena

    I needed this post more than you could possibly know.  

    I do have a couple of people that either pick apart every word I write, or use the comments section as an opportunity to provide me some type of “life coaching” or other psycho analysis.It’s exhausting just reading comments like that.

    I enjoy reading different perspectives, but that type of criticism is a bit too draining for my taste.

  • http://www.faughnfamily.com/ Adam Faughn

    One of the things I have had to do is realize that those who are on my side far outweigh people who are just out to negatively criticize at every turn. That helps me listen to the criticism, but weigh it in the balance of those who are encouraging me along the way.

  • http://twitter.com/CreateWriteNow Mari L. McCarthy

    Thank you Jeff.  Journal writing can help us understand ourselves better and teach  us new techniques for managing our interactions with critics. I’m with Ed on ignoring people who live in their ego. I find that thanking people and providing a calm, compassionate smile works well too!    

  • http://www.behindthegateblog.com/ Gayle

    Great post with real wisdom for those of us out there pouring ourselves into our work and sometimes getting slammed with criticism.  I am a trainer of long-term workers. I teach fundamentals of nursing and continuing ed. Often someone just butchers me, although most are very encouraging and complimentary.  Every students reviews my work which can be sooo hard.   I remember one comment (that went to my supervisors) saying I was racist. She drew this conclusion based on the statistics I presented for diabetes risk factors.  African Americans are in the high risk category. But so is Native Americans, being middle age, and having a family member who has diabetes!  Sometimes it is just so  hard for us pleasing folks!
    I think I will copy this and read it every time I get a bad review. Thanks Jeff!

  • Anthony

    Great topic Jeff. Yes trolls have a purpose… being trolls. We also have one… continuing to write. When I started blogging two years ago, it was simply to stop gay youth suicide as a result of bullying. Everything took off from there and I ended up working with a great editor who was able to transform my theater and College English Essay Style into something more fitting for the blogoshpere. As a result of my fifteen years of daily writing and a few alterations, I was soon getting a whole lot of attention all the way from England. Then of course the trolls descended. There were three things that got me through this: I knew who I was and my intent, I have incredible friends who also know my intent and heart and several years experience as an actor/stand up comedian in NYC where people love to attack and tell you what’s wrong with you.When you’ve been booed and heckled at midnight in a 3rd rate strip joint in nowhere Queens nothing scares you

  • Miranda

    Hi Jeff,
    It’s sad that some people believe that being a ‘good’ critique is all about being (unjustly) hard on others. They believe that to remain impressive is to raise the standard bar, not caring that they cause others to become depressed.

    “I don’t say nothing if I don’t hear nothing?” That’s a keeper for me! So is not giving (negative) criticism the power it deserves.

    Well done Jeff, and happy recovery!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks!

  • http://sparkvoice.wordpress.com/ DS

    It’s great to read this piece of advice.  This used to drive me nuts after delivering a sermon or speech.  It took a long time for this to really stick.  Once you get it figured out, it’s a huge relief. 

    This might be one of the transformative pieces of advice I’ve applied in my life and wished I’d learned earlier.

  • http://www.thejourneybegins.org/ Mplatania

    I’ve learned in Toastmasters (public speaking organization) the difference between evaluation and feedback, and criticism.  I am always open to evaluation and feedback but even though I have learned that I have to pick and choose what advice I will listen to.  One day someone said “your speech didn’t follow the “Say what you are going to say, say it, say what you said” format.  He’s right – and it never will.  I tell stories, I don’t give formulaic speeches.  I will never please him, and that’s ok, because I went on to win three humorous speech contests.   I guess the biggest lesson is we have to learn to edit what we listen and respond to as much as we edit what we write. 

  • http://unknownjim.com/ Jim Woods

    I’m waiting for the haters. Once I get some..then that’s a sign I’m doing something that really matters.

  • prophetsandpopstars

    Fantastic post, Jeff. This wins the Most Awesome Post Of The Day Award. 

    I found out about the webinar too late. Hope you guys make it available to those who signed up. 

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    Henry Cloud in “Necessary Endings” talks about the 3 kinds of people in the world–the wise, the foolish, the mean. In dealing with the latter, he said that’s where the phrase “You can speak to my lawyer” was created (or something close to that).

  • Chandra Ingram

    Great post!  I’m a recovering people pleaser too.  I made a decision a long time ago to not listen to critics.  Consequnetly, I have been criticized for ignoring criticism, of all things.  My response has been that the critics aren’t qualified to judge my work.  But “I don’t say nuthin’ if I don’t hear nuthin’” really captures the right mindset.  If the critics are qualified and have something of value to offer, then we’ve received a gift from them.  Otherwise, they’re just wind.

  • http://www.refreshedbytheword.blogspot.com/ Jan

    Great post, Jeff! Going to link to it from my blog if that’s ok. It’s a message everyone needs to hear.

    Question: If someone leaves a really negative rant on your blog, do you delete the comment so that others aren’t subjected to their acid tongue or just let it ride?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      depends. if it’s just hatred, kill it, but if your response could be valuable to the community, leave it.

  • http://bohemiantraveler.com/ Stephen

    Powerful response from Ed. Thanks for sharing this personal encounter.

  • DanielaDragas

    Oh yes I have spent countless agonizing hours pondering over
    how to respond to ‘people who aren’t saying anything’. But not any longer. I
    have printed, laminated and pinned right in front of my desk the following
    wisdom from my bellowed Rilke: ‘Read as
    little as possible of literary criticism – such things are either partisan
    opinions, which have become petrified and meaningless, hardened and empty of
    life, or else they are just clever word-games, in which one view wins today,
    and tomorrow the opposite view. Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and
    no means of approach is so useless as criticism.’

  • http://www.theskooloflife.com Srinivas Rao

    Jeff, 

    The best writers I’ve interviewed have been the ones that take a strong stand and are willing to hit a nerve with people. I started working on a new post about this yesterday and to start I said “If you want to be remarkable you have to get over the fear of taking risks with your content.” 

  • http://4ambassadorsofchrist.blogspot.com/ Jarmila V. Del Boccio

    I’m guilty! I will answer everyone…and be offended by comments that are hurtful. Thanks for suggesting a way to “turn a deaf ear” and learn to develop thick skin!

  • Kent Faver

    Thanks for this Jeff!  I am reading and resonating with other people-pleasing commenters, and also (sadly) from folks who have felt the sting of critics from the loud complainers within a church community.   I am dealing with both issues right now, and both can be consuming, from the moment I arise until the moment they wake me from sleep at night. 

  • S. Kim Henson

    I’m good with this lesson. I quit defending and explaining years ago when, like you, an elderly friend told me “What you defend, you make true. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.” 

    I thought she was nuts. But you know what? She was dead on, and my life is so much better now that I let naysayers own their naysaying. Sometimes they even hear themselves since I don’t talk back, and will apologize. Not often, but it’s happened. 

    Thanks. Great reminder!  

  • http://rebekkaksteg.com/ Rebekka @ Becky’s Kaleidoscope

    Thank you for this excellent reminder! I always try to keep everyone happy even though I know it’s absolutely impossible. I’m getting better though.

  • http://www.wwjw.com/ Best Shopping Directory

    This is the second thing I’ve read on this subject in the last 20 minutes! OK God, I got it! Thanks for hitting me over the head with it! And thanks Jeff, for being part of His plan to make me listen.

  • http://www.wwjw.com/ Best Shopping Directory

     Good to see the application laid out so clearly.

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