Monday, October 26, 2009

Navigating Through the Negative

On the path to success, you will encounter naysayers, doubters and people who will try to shoot you down. They will offer unconstructive criticism. They will question your commitment or your abilities. They may even actively try to sabotage you. But it’s not what they do that matters, it’s what you do that will make the difference.

When this happens to you – and it will if you are trying to do something different from others around you, it pays to ask yourself a couple of questions.

Is there anything positive I can take from this situation? This question is particularly useful in the face of unjust or unfair criticism. Just because it is unjust or unfair doesn’t mean that there can’t be a nugget of truth in it. Look for that nugget. If you find one, great. If not, keep your head up and keep going.

Is this worth a response? When it comes to criticism and comments from close family and friends and even those who aren’t close to us, our knee-jerk reaction is to defend ourselves, our choices and our actions. But is that always the best way to go? When it comes to people who are dead-set in their ways and beliefs, is it worth it to defend your position? Is defending yourself really the best use of your time, your energy and emotion?

Is there away to avoid this situation in the future? Consider putting some distance between you and this person. If they are family or close friends, you might not be able to do this or even want to, however, you don’t necessarily have to share your dreams and your progress with them. If it is an acquaintance, do you have to interact with this person at all. Finally, consider having a discussion with this person at a later time – once emotions have cooled and some time has passed.

Here is a case in point: I recently had what turned out to be a very contentious phone call with a business associate. It became clear after almost 10 minutes that we simply weren’t going to come to a consensus on the matter. When we ended the call, I felt we were done - agree to disagree and go our own ways. The next morning I received an email from him. He reiterated his points and accused me of not being committed to my career as a coach.

My knee-jerk reaction was to rattle off an email in the same condescending tone that he took with me. But I put some thought into it first.

Is there anything positive I can take from this situation? I read his email and there were one or two things that he mentioned that I could be doing to further my business.

Is it worth a response: This is a man I haven’t had contact with in over six months. He’s criticizing me with no knowledge of anything I’ve been doing during that time. Secondly, the only purpose of the email, from my perspective, was to engage me in a dialogue that was not going to be productive or positive. I decided not to respond to that email.

Is there away to avoid this situation in the future? Certainly. I set up a rule so that any emails from him automatically go to my junk folder. I also deleted him as a contact from Linked In.

Had I gone with the knee jerk reaction and responded with a catty email, I could have easily seen a back-and-forth that got increasingly nastier and nastier. Feelings would have been hurt, egos bruised. Emailing and getting emotionally would have taken a lot of time, wasted a lot of emotional energy and taken my focus off of the work that I needed to do. I decided that it simply wasn’t worth

It’s your dream. It’s your life. It’s yours to enjoy and it’s also yours to defend.

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