The Essential Guide to (Not) Responding to Critics

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…
—Theodore Roosevelt

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. But these people are inescapable.

Art Critic Photo
Photo credit: Allan Henderson (Creative Commons)

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.

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.

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 my friend Jon 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.

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).

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.

102 thoughts on “The Essential Guide to (Not) Responding to Critics

  1. 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 |

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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. 

    1. 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

      1. 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.

  6. 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!

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. 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?

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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.

  17. 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

  18. 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!

  19. 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  

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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’. 🙂

  23. 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. 

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. 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:

  27. 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.

  28. 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.


  29. 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.

    1. 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.

  30. 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?

  31. 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…

  32. 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.

  33. ‘ 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).

  34. 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.

  35. 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”.  (  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.

  36. 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!

  37. 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.

  38. 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!

  39. 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!

  40. 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!

  41. 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.”

  42. 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.

  43. 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.

  44. 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!    

  45. 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!

  46. 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

  47. 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!

  48. 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.

  49. 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. 

  50. 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. 

  51. 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).

  52. 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.

  53. 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?

  54. 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.’

  55. 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.” 

  56. 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. 

  57. 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!  

    1. I love that quote in your comment. I need constant reminding of this. I tend to be overly sensitive, as a singer songwriter, though I know, logically, not everyone will appreciate my songs. I have to remember that as long as I am happy with my music, chances are other people will be as well. Just not EVERYbody.

  58. 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.

  59. Came across a lovely quote on my calendar the other day, something to share with critics.
    Remember: “Pobody’s Nerfect”

  60. This article is great as far as it goes. (Uh-oh, criticism!). What I mean is that it doesn’t really answer my personal situation. I’m hoping to open an art gallery in a town whose political views lean (overall) differently than mine. The newspaper, in particular, seems quite slanted away from my viewpoints on most things. And they know who me and my husband are, and that my husband has (in the past) been involved in the community spotlight serving on this board or that. So they know his views and don’t like most of them. It is primarily the newspaper that I worry will write a scathing article about my gallery, and if not all the art in it, at least mine. I don’t think they’d think anything of trying to kill my business before I even get started! So how would you deal with a problem of this magnitude?

    1. ArtyParty,
      Remember two things, even ‘bad’ publicity is publicity! Secondly, history has proven many times that when someone makes the first move, ie: women having the right to vote, legalizing alcohol, etc, etc. (poor examples maybe) the masses are always resistant to change. Someone has to step up and make it ‘the way it will someday be.” Do what you love, regardless of the newspaper’s opinion, which is likely only one person at the paper fueling the negativity anyway.

  61. Good stuff here. I find positive reviews can mess with the mind, too. With two books releasing next year, I’m hoping to really lay low — keep working on what’s next, not seeking out words about the work that’s already done. It’s really hard. But i know it makes me less anxious and more focused.

  62. I was put off this week-end when I tried to tell someone about my writing and she acted like it was not interesting to her. I agree what you said about ignoring it. I was put off for awhile and then I remembered how many people have complemented and have enjoyed my writing. Thank you Jeff

  63. When your life choices threaten someone’s ‘life view’, making their life choices seem small, of course they fight back. How can they justify their life otherwise?

    Let them get on with it and go on your merry way, each to their own and all that jazz.

  64. Hi Jeff: This is a great topic and one that should be visited often because of our sin nature to see what’s wrong with everything but unable to see the good.

    I have to say that I’ve been guilty of too much criticism myself and am spending considerable time in reflection, prayer, scripture, and discussing with my wife about this subject. I now stay much closer to my Lord at His cross before saying something that is critical.

    After years on the receiving end of heavy-handed criticism, I have the following conclusions:

    1. The legacy of Protestantism is to protest—virtually everything that fails to meet the standard of their particular flavor of doctrinal correctness. So Christians need to deal with that debilitating practice.

    2. Accusation is to be in league with the devil. He is the accuser of the brethren.

    3. Criticism with an arm around the shoulder can be a gesture of brotherly love to build up. However, most criticism tears down.

    4. Nobody has all truth. We are all missing it somewhere. The issue at hand is behavior. How well are we living as salt to preserve society from decay and light which displaces moral darkness?

    5. The need for communication skills. The lack of quality communication skills is rampant. My parents sure didn’t teach me to communicate well. That is being learned as an adult with five children of his own.

    Your second type of people is definitely worth future posts. I’ve given much thought to that as I endeavor to fulfill my life purpose and mission.

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