“The tongue can bring death or life…”
People will always have opinions about your life and the decisions you choose to make on a personal level. Whether that looks like what you wear, what name you give your child, how you parent, or who you choose to marry, the list can be endless.
Some people may be merely projecting their insecurities and fears on you and so if you listen to and heed every single piece of unsolicited advice that comes your way, you may not live authentically or obediently to what God desires for your life.
Because we all have different worldviews, upbringings, and culture it is important to be aware of our biases as we interact with others, being careful to strive for peace where it depends on us. It is critical to note that not everything that crosses your mind should be voiced. That is the power of emotional maturity; knowing what to say, how to say it, and when to say it.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of unsolicited opinions and negative criticism, here are some tips that can help you navigate:
- Do not react, respond
It is easy to be riled up by what others say about you. But before you react defensively, step back and assess your feelings, thoughts, and triggers. Ask yourself, “what am I feeling?” “why is this bothering me?” “What are my thoughts?”
Once you identify all these things, respond to the individual in a way that reflects your values and beliefs. Sometimes, the most powerful response is silence, especially when dealing with an argumentative individual.
- Delay judgement
What labels are you placing on an individual who comes at you with negative criticism? Are you internally calling them “spiteful”, “mean”, or “horrible” for saying those things?
While some individuals may be deliberately saying terrible things to harm people, others may not know the impact and damage their words can have on their friends and colleagues. Delay judgement, when confronted by such individuals.
- Push back
It is ok to let those who you relate with know your limits. Respectfully telling someone that you will not accept conversations of a certain nature is well within your right as an autonomous adult. It is part of putting up healthy boundaries that go a long way in cementing mutual respect in your relationships.
- Press the ignore button
Sometimes all you can do to protect your mental health is to mute unsolicited advice and negative criticism. And it is ok.
- Pan for gold
Can you learn something new about yourself from an unsolicited comment or opinion? How you react may be an indicator of the need for inner work and healing. A negative situation can shed light on an emotional wound.
Can you learn something new about those who give these types of opinions? Sometimes what someone says can show you who they are and what they are struggling with.
For example, an individual who regularly comments about your weight gain may be struggling with their body image and projecting their insecurities on you.
We can therefore turn negativity into a learning situation that perhaps may drive us to self and other compassion.
As always, I would like to hear from you. How are you managing people’s negative opinions of you?