As many of y’all probably know, I am a big home improvement geek (made all the more nerdy because I don’t actually own my own home yet). Still, when I’m not watching the Food Network or whatever foolishness is on Bravo (i.e. Real Housewives of Atlanta), you can find me happily tuned in to HGTV for an episode of House Hunters, Property Brothers, or some other HGTV staple.
What HGTV has to do with your judgmental Aunt Susan
The other week, I was watching an episode of House Hunters featuring an unconventional buyer. As an intensely passionate cyclist, his priority in finding a home was not a kitchen with granite countertops, or hardwood floors, or an open floor plan. His priority was finding a home with an ideal space to house his bike workshop.
In other words, he wanted something different than everyone else – and that mere notion, the mere notion of wanting something the least bit unconventional – damn near gave his realtor a heart attack. Despite her client making his needs clear, she continued to take you him to one conventional home after another, and then had the nerve to be annoyed when his sole focus remained on finding a home with the perfect bike workshop.
News Flash: People HATE dealing with folks who have the audacity to be different
If you’ve ever tried to do anything the least bit unconventional – choose an unexpected career, date outside your race, state an opinion that differed from most people of your gender or cultural background – you’ve likely experienced this phenomenon yourself.
The truth of the matter is, people HATE dealing with folks who have the audacity to be different. It makes them uncomfortable. They are quick to tell you what they think of you and your choices based on their own experience, and for most extremely judgmental individuals, that experience is typically pretty limited.
Intellectually, you know this already. But that doesn’t make encountering it any less painful. It doesn’t take the sting out of a comment made by a judgmental parent or peer). It doesn’t soothe the hurt of dealing with a small-minded church member or family friend.
While the following seven strategies may not erase all the pain and frustration of dealing with critical individuals in your life, they can serve as guidelines for getting out of almost any confrontation relatively unscathed.
Don’t ask for permission
So often, people (especially women) attach an unintentional question mark at the end of a statement when sharing their thoughts, opinions, or future plans. Be wary of this, as it makes it sound like you are looking for feedback. Be confident in your decisions and state them as facts, not an invitation for additional commentary!
Address your discomfort within
That said, occasionally when someone says something hurtful, that hurt may exist because their comment actually struck a cord with one of your inner beliefs. To find out what made you so uncomfortable, ask yourself, Why am I feeling uncomfortable with his/her comment? Why am I unhappy about what he/she just said? What is it about it that is bothering me?
Don’t address it right away
Just because someone makes a snappy comment, doesn’t mean you have to address it right away. Instead of responding immediately, ignore the comment or change the subject, giving you time to figure out if it’s even worth addressing once you’ve cooled down a bit, and if so, to decide the best way to address the issue.
Choose your battles
Not every snide comment or eye roll needs to turn into World War III. Choose your battles wisely and save your valuable time and emotional energy for when you need to stand up for something that really matters.
Channel your inner Dave Chapelle
Develop a sense of humor when dealing with the small-minded folks in your life. When you think about it, it can be somewhat amusing when someone’s opinion is so off base with what you believe or have experienced. Be amused, rather than angry, next time someone tries to tell you what’s best for you.
If there is one person in your life who makes you miserable every time you talk to them, time to go back to the basics and start avoiding the mess out of them! Talk to them as little as possible, see them even less. And if you can’t avoid the person, attempt to avoid any controversial subjects anytime the two of you are forced to interact.
And if you can’t avoid them? Ignore them. Easier said than done, I know. But I read a great story online the other day that illustrates the power of this tactic beautifully:
Buddha was well known for his ability to respond to evil with good. There was a man who knew about his reputation and he traveled miles and miles and miles to test Buddha. When he arrived and stood before Buddha, he verbally abused him constantly; he insulted him; he challenged him; he did everything he could to offend Buddha.
Buddha was unmoved, he simply turned to the man and said, “May I ask you a question?”
The man responded with, “Well, what?” Buddha said, “If someone offers you a gift and you decline to accept it, to whom then does it belong?”
The man said, “Then it belongs to the person who offered it.”
Buddha smiled, “That is correct. So if I decline to accept your abuse, does it not then still belong to you?”
The man was speechless and walked away.
You don’t have to live your life the way everyone else expects you to. Think outside of the box. Love who you love. Dream a bigger dream.
Whatever you do, don’t spend another moment of your one and only life not being deliriously happy and true to yourself just because you’re afraid of what the masses (or even a select few) might think of you.
You deserve better.
Are there folks in your life who disapprove of any choice that is different than one they would make for themselves? What strategies have you found to be successful in dealing with their criticisms? Does your strategy differ based on the person/their relationship to you? If so, how?