One of the most powerful lessons you learn in life is learning what to ignore. From unsolicited comments to the voice of the inner critic, some things are worth paying attention to and some things are meant to be ignored.
Learning that distinction, though, is easier said than done. Here 3 of my favorite ways to get started:
- Is it kind? This is the best place to start because even criticism can be delivered kindly. Whatever the message you’re hearing, whether it’s from a friend, coworker or manager, only listen to the feedback that is delivered with kind words.
Don’t believe criticism can be delivered kindly? Try this example. You want to communicate to someone that the work they did wasn’t up to the level you expected. Unkind criticism says, “This project sucks, and I expected better from you.” Kind criticism says, “This work isn’t at the same level of what you normally turn in. Did you encounter any difficulties that we can address?”
That may be an extreme example but it illustrates a key difference. The unkind criticism is highly reactive and not delivered in a considerate manner. Listening to this will provide no value and in fact, will likely have a negative impact. The kind criticism opens up the opportunity to learn and offers a supportive environment. This type of criticism is not only easier to hear, but it creates the space to improve with support.
- Is it true? The voice of the inner critic likes to use absolutes. “You never do this” and “You always do that” are prime examples of inner critic statements. They’re also prime examples of things to ignore. When you notice your inner dialog has this absolute quality to it, take a minute and ask yourself if it’s true. Is it really true that you always show up late or that you never parallel park without hitting the curb? When you hear those absolutes it’s a sure sign that what the voice is saying isn’t true, and that it’s something you can ignore.
- Is the source of the comment in my inner circle? Feedback, comments and criticism come at us from all angles all day long. From random people in the grocery store line to colleagues who you rarely engage with, it can be a lot to process. If you’re at the point of overwhelm and can’t even distinguish if what you’re hearing is kind or true, consider the source. What role does the person play in your life? Do you trust that person? If the person is a very peripheral part of your life and/or you don’t trust them, feel free to disregard their comments.
The next time you encounter some feedback or comments, try passing it through these 3 questions. Notice how it’s delivered and if it’s kind. Ask yourself if the inner critic’s comments are true. Decide if the person commenting is part of your inner circle. Start learning how to make the distinction between what’s important and what’s best left ignored.