Conversation the other night between myself, a Twitch streamer, and a stand-up comic revolved around trolling and how to deal with criticism. These conversations are more interesting when everyone involved represents a different decade of age and experience. Older people tend to forget just how devastating criticism is to young people. I think about it all the time, and this is what I had to share with my younger friends.
There are seven billion people in the world who will never know who I am or care about what I do. That’s liberating.
If someone hate-reads my work, great! It just improves my stats.
My work won’t matter to most people who ever lived or ever will. My fans are a statistical anomaly out of the population of the world. To those few thousand people, though, my work matters. I can’t allow the negative opinions of even a billion people to stop me from creating anything, because they’re not my audience.
Trolls are doing nothing but attacking other people’s work. If that is the only thing they have to contribute, then their opinion is worthless. Anyone can do it and it has no value.
Trolls! Go do something with your life. Donate blood. Shelve books at the library. Walk dogs at the animal shelter. Pick up litter.
See, that message is going to go nowhere because as far as I know, trolls don’t read my blog. That’s probably because I don’t allow comments, and I never have.
It’s not that I’m trying to stave off criticism. Critique is always welcome if it comes from a valid source. I am constantly getting evaluated in public speaking, and I understand that it’s necessary for anyone who wants to improve.
That’s not the same, though, as accepting any and all negative comments from any and all sources.
There’s nothing easier to find in our world than a one-star review. Only rarely have I ever found a one-star review of any product, service, or location to have any value. It winds up being annoying. One-star reviewers are usually venting anger about something irrelevant, like how long something took to ship, rather than anything that would matter to me as a customer or client.
You have that much pent-up anger about the world? Try kickboxing.
People should work harder at seeking out things they are likely to enjoy, or learning to enjoy new things, rather than constantly being disappointed by everything they watch, read, eat, and do.
Anyway. I don’t give it a lot of thought because I don’t really encounter trolling or random criticism in my life.
The first thing I did was to drop out of a social organization that was no longer on my wavelength.
The second thing I did was to quit Facebook.
The third thing I did was to join a club that is very focused on a single activity.
What happens when you and the people around you are focused on something positive that you all voluntarily chose to do? What happens is that you see each other as natural allies, colleagues, neighbors, and friends.
Almost all my social interactions now are face to face. That changes everything!
If I’m texting with someone, it’s probably someone I’ve seen within the last couple of days or will be seeing soon. The exceptions are family members.
How to deal with criticism from family members: Only tell them about stuff after you’ve already done it. People who know you well are always going to try to talk you out of doing things like changing careers, relocating, traveling, or training for anything physical. Either they’ll list off a bunch of scary stories of all the ways it’s gone wrong for other people they know, or they’ll tell you all about your deep-seated character flaws and why you’ll always fail at everything.
Why? Nobody knows.
Actually we do know. It’s because we can quit talking to naysayers if we’re not related to them. Family gets a free pass on behavior that strangers never could get away with, like borrowing money and not repaying it, making a scene at parties or weddings, or calling you nicknames from when you were eight.
Why would you accept advice and criticism from people with no relevant experience or credentials? Genetics?
The difference between criticism and critique is that critique is specific, constructive, and relevant, and it comes from someone whose job it is to provide that critique. You should look forward to it because you genuinely know that it will help you solve a problem and improve at what you’re doing.
Criticism, on the other hand, would be vague, irrelevant, personal, and unhelpful, and it would come from someone who has no business offering an opinion on that topic.
For instance, if someone wanted advice on how to get their cat to quit clawing their couch, I would have no business offering my opinion because I don’t know the answer. All I’d be able to say is, I have a dog and a parrot and they don’t claw the furniture. How would that be helpful? It’s my job to save my breath, or maybe connect that person with a cat lover who has more experience.
For whatever reason, people love running their mouths, and I think we don’t always realize what we’re saying. No filter. Critical people think they’re being helpful, and they also think they’re funny and interesting. If they understood the effects their words were having, that would just give them one more thing to criticize.
That’s why the secret to dealing with criticism is to, first, find a way to either ignore it or integrate it despite how sloppy it might be. Then simply align yourself with people who share a common purpose, and only ask for advice and input from them. The people in your life who aren’t on that wavelength can then focus their negativity on the shows they’re hate-watching, foods they don’t like, and anything else they want to criticize.
Almost everyone’s a critic, and anyone can do it. Look for people who are better at giving constructive feedback, and learn from them how it’s done.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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