Thursday, November 19, 2015

Teflon Don

I have been kicking around an idea for a post on how we react to criticism. This is a topic that I have written about several times in the past, usually correlated to when I see the different ways folks respond when they are on the receiving end of some negative feedback. Whenever I am the target of harsh words, I tend to shrink back because they are usually delivered in a combative manner and I very much dislike conflict. However, I have several friends whose skin seems to be made of Teflon. No matter what gets thrown at them, no matter how petty, how vindictive, or even how true, they seem to give better than they get and walk away from the encounter with their mind clear and their pulse at absolutely normal levels.

In a recent Sunday sermon, my pastor spoke about why we react to criticism the way that we do and why some of us take it so badly. He believes that we tend to take criticism so personally and let it affect us as deeply as we do because we believe, in whole or in part, the truth of what was said. That is what it means to take things personally. However, oftentimes many of us react to all criticism in the same manner regardless of what is said or who says it, namely, we let it eat at us until it impacts our whole demeanor.

There was an episode of Seinfeld that illustrates my point. Elaine was trying to get a reaction from a man who had a reputation for personal attacks that went right to the bone. He told her simply, "You've got a big head." Upon hearing this she was far from impressed. She laughed in his face, "That's all you've got?" Yet slowly but surely his words sunk and slithered their way into her mind until all she could see when looking in the mirror was a walking candy apple.

Of course, sometimes criticism is necessary for our own safety and for reproval. However, I am more interested in how we respond to nasty, negative, personal hate missiles that are so often lobbed our way. Whether we believe the truth in what is said or not, we need to work to develop a more effective filter when hearing the words of others. A filter tuned to allow us to pull out any truth even in the most vicious verbal blows of others, to act on it in a positive manner, and to let the rest go.