Over the past few weeks, I have been discussing responding to criticism. To become a master at responding to criticism you have to learn to figure out the reason why someone is criticizing you because different reasons require a different type of response. So far, we discussed three different reasons:
- Criticism designed to encourage you to improve (see RESPONDING TO CRITICISM: FOUR LEVELS OF MATURITY and RESPONDING TO CRITICISM: THE MOST MATURE LEVEL)
- Playful teasing (see MAKING THE BUS MONITOR CRY: RATING HER RESPONSE)
- The desire to form a bond with a group by putting down non-group members (MAKING THE BUS MONITOR CRY: WHY THE BOYS DID IT)
Today we will focus on dealing with criticism that occurs because someone, or a group of people are jealous of you.
In the above comic, a young girl is talking about a new kid at school to her counselor. Apparently the new kid is nice, kind, and helpful. Such a person may be perceived as having some advantages in getting others to like them. Perhaps the young girl in the comic is jealous of the new kid. By the last frame, the young girl is focused not on possessing the advantage, but on expressing her dislike for the new kid who has the advantage.
It is quite a common observation that when people meet up with someone whom they perceive as having an advantage over them—whether it is that the person is taller, handsomer, smarter, nicer, richer, or more talented in some way—some people seek to cut down the person with the perceived advantage.
If someone is criticizing you, how can you tell if it is because of jealousy? A useful clue that sometimes indicates jealousy is if the insults become more frequent whenever you are recognized by someone as doing something well. For example, someone cute says you look great or the teacher says you received an “A.”
To create a useful example, let’s call a student Arlene. A teacher during lunch compliments Arlene for her performance on the volleyball team. As soon as the teacher leaves, one of the students at Arlene’s table says in a nasty tone:
This comment sounds like it may very well be motivated by jealousy. What would be a wise response for Arlene to make?
If Arlene knows that although it is true that she missed some shots at the game, but still did better than anyone else on the team, would this be a good thing to mention at this time? This type of response is likely to be viewed by the other students as bragging. It may increase the motivation to cut her down.
What if instead, Arlene decides to let her actions during the games she plays in speak for themselves? Whenever she is insulted by the students, she attempts to find an element of truth in the insult and humbly admits to it. For example, after the student had said, “Arlene’s not so great, she missed lots of shots at the game!” rather than defend herself, suppose Arlene says:
By doing this, those who have a desire to make Arlene feel down will find that they are at least somewhat satisfied. This at least reduces the intensity of the conflict rather than increasing it, which is likely to happen if Arlene brags or replies with an insult. There is power in being humble. A great sage once said:
“Giving birth and nourishing,
Bearing yet not possessing,
Working yet not taking credit,
Leading yet not dominating
This is the Primal Virtue.”
Lao Tzu from Tao Te Ching
Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.