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  • Writer's pictureElfreda Manahan-Vaughan

How to Deal with the Opinions of Others

I know I have written about this before, but I wanted to write about it again as it is something that regularly comes up in my coaching sessions and when teaching. I recently had a message from someone who said their confidence was really knocked because someone posted an argument under a video they had shared online and it had affected them badly. So much so that they took their video down. Having an online presence and being able to deal with the reactions and opinions of others can be quite a challenge, especially when we feel a little nervous or vulnerable putting ourselves out there in the first place. I am not immune to this, but I do have some tips to help you deal with differing opinions and criticism.

From a Buddhist perspective when dealing with criticism we have to examine and acknowledge the things to which we are attached. Our attachments are the ideas we have about who we are, who we want to be and what we hope other people think of us to name but a few. When we begin to identify what these attachments are we can start to have a fair idea about why things bother us.

If we are hoping to be seen as intelligent then, if someone questions our intellect, ability, knowledge or expertise then we often feel bad. If we value our appearance, and someone criticises how we look then, we can feel bad also. Our values often determine what is important to us and these values are often the things that trip us up when it comes to criticism or the opinions of others. The real trick is to be able to use the criticism as feedback and use it to learn, grow or develop.

If we assume that we have already arrived then, we close ourselves off from further growth. Sure, being shown our failings can sting but the truth is if your value is growth, self-improvement or to help others then taking those opinions and using them to get better, to improve or to adopt new ideas and to expand your map of the world is useful.

I used to hate criticism, I could feel myself shrink inside and feel myself blush internally. I even struggled with shame and worried about the opinions of others long after an event had past. I’d lie awake at night going over and over the event as if that would somehow change it and I would miraculously erase the fact that they had pointed out my mistake or lack of knowledge. It never did change the past therefore, I had to adopt a new tactic. So, I developed a new a strategy and here it is:

The first thing I do is change the information given to me by someone else from criticism to feedback. This is a universal tool used in NLP. It can be as simple as changing the word criticism to feedback in your mind.

Then, I ask myself are they right in any way, and if so, what aspects of the feedback may be true?

If they are right. I ask myself what do I need to do, or learn, to become better? I then make a plan as to how to improve, or I ask for help. Sometimes from the person who offered the opinion in the first place.

If they are wrong, I chalk it down to a difference of opinion or I accept that this comment may be simply about them or their view of the world. I usually just thank them for their opinion and I move on. I remind myself that most people say what they say with good intention, even if I can’t see it, and I acknowledge that, to them, whatever they think or said makes sense.

The most important thing I remind myself of is, ‘It’s not about me’, in most cases people arguing with you, especially online, is more often than not, not personal. You just happen to represent something to them that triggers their values or beliefs, and in that moment they have chosen to voice them.

Most importantly, I try not to argue back. This just causes you to defend yourself, it closes you off from new experiences and learning, as it forces you to reinforce beliefs, ideas and opinions that you already have instead of opening you up to new ways of viewing the world. That old saying of not taking things personally is important to remember, as well as knowing that if you are taking it personally then that’s all you and nothing to do with them.

Get used to saying things like, ‘thank you, I appreciate your opinion’. ‘Wow, I never thought of it like that’. ‘That’s fascinating can you tell me more’. ‘You could be right, I’ll have to think about that’ and ‘you’re right I do have more to learn, thanks for giving me something new to think about’. Humility, is always a good place to start. I have to work at that all the time, but it really is worth the effort.

Another thing that is incredibly useful is to practice Loving Kindness or compassionate meditation. When we are kind to ourselves we can see ourselves more clearly as someone who is just trying to do their best. The biggest cause of sensitivity to criticism is trying to be perfect. You aren’t, you never will be and if you ever are then start worrying because then you have nothing left to learn and as far as I’m concerned learning is the whole point of living.

Thanks for reading. If you are interested in finding out about my online or face to face courses or Mind Coaching sessions you can find out more on my website.

I hope our paths cross again in future,


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