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How To Take Criticism Like Donald Trump

How To Take Criticism Like Donald Trump

Donald Trump & Melania (Courtesy of Boss Tweed via flickr)

    Donald Trump & Melania (Courtesy of Boss Tweed via flickr)

    I’ve noticed lately that people aren’t very good at handling criticism, even when they’ve asked for it.

    Our natural tendency when given advice or criticism is to become defensive and upset. We try to convince the person they’re wrong (or at least to see it from our perspective) which, ironically, has the exact opposite of the intended effect.

    Know what the single most effective way is to disarm criticism?  Agree with it.

    You can imagine some common situations where this might come up…

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    • You’re making a presentation at work and afterward someone asks a “hostile” question which challenges you in front of everyone.
    • You’re selling your car and a potential buyer comments that the color or condition is really not to their liking.
    • A friend/mentor/family member tries to offer you some honest feedback which you feel is totally unwarranted.

    Most people will react to all of these in a similar way: a defensive and reactive position.  You can immediately see it in their eyes: it is an emotional response and they get upset.

    • “Actually I made the chart that way on purpose.  I included the extra data because it’s important to the overall message and the other people I showed it to didn’t think it detracted from the presentation at all.”
    • “Really, you don’t like the color?  That’s strange because I get compliments on it all the time.  It’s hard to find this color actually, it’s a rare commodity.”
    • “What do you mean I’m not focused?  I work really hard.  I mean just because I’m doing those two things doesn’t mean I can’t put all my effort into it!”

    In each of these cases, have you convinced the person of your point of view?  Most likely the answer is no.  In fact, you have further reinforced their original belief in their own mind.  If you could spell out the internal dialog going on in their heads it would be something like this:

    • “Woa!  I guess I hit a nerve with that one.  SOMEBODY can’t take advice…not only does the chart suck but he/she is in denial about it, nice!”
    • “Great…you love the color idiot.  You’re not buying it, I am, and I’m losing interest by the second because you’re starting to annoy me.”
    • “Geez…I guess I won’t bring that up again.  It’s a shame because we’ve all know this about John for years…it’s obvious to all of us but we just can’t seem to get it through to him.  Maybe if a few more of us mention it.”

    There is an important rule behind all of this that I’d like you to remember:

    The more defensive you become, the more likely that the person criticizing you is actually right!

    Really…think about it for a moment.  What if someone came up to you and said “Your name is Bubba Gump”.  Would this upset you?  Since your name is obviously NOT Bubba Gump, this is a ridiculous accusation and the chances of this getting an emotional response out of you are slim.

    But what if someone came up to you and said “You smell bad”.  Well, it’s still pretty ridiculous but you know what, we all do smell bad at times, and hey…there may be a little bit of truth to that.  You might start to get a little bit defensive: “What?  I don’t smell bad, what are you talking about?”

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    Now if we look at a statement that is even farther along the spectrum: “You are actually the most selfish person that I know.  All of your friends talk about you behind your back and say how selfish you are.  If you dropped dead tomorrow no one would care.”  Now THAT is likely to get an emotional response!  Why?  Because there is some truth to it.  We all are a little selfish sometimes and think about ourselves probably more than we should.  And, even though its unpleasant to think about, if we did drop dead tomorrow a lot of people wouldn’t care!  Damnit, they’re right and that pisses me off!  (An emotional response.)

    Since I’ve learned this, it has played out to be true in my own life.  Whenever someone makes a comment that really gets to me, I’ll end up finding out (usually much later) that they were actually mostly right.  Think back to an example in your own life when a comment really got to you personally.  Did it end up being true?

    How To Diffuse Any Criticism

    Hopefully that gives you a little insight into criticism and when you should take it seriously.  Now lets focus on how to diffuse criticism that you don’t want.

    At the beginning I said that the secret to diffusing criticism is to agree with it.  I can hear you asking, “but Brian, what if the criticism really is wrong??  I can’t just agree with it!”

    True, but you can do what I call “tacitly agreeing” or “indirect agreement”.  You do this by saying something like “thats a good point, thanks for that” or “you know you’re right, there might be some truth to that, I’ll have to consider it”.

    Have you really agreed to anything?  No.  But you have taken the wind out of their sails.

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    Imagine for a moment someone giving a speech in front of a huge audience.  The speaker finishes and Q&A begins where the audience can ask questions.  The first question comes from a very hostile listener who clearly disagrees with everything that has been said.  He or she begins their rant (disguised as a question), very eager to have the stage for a moment, and begins to insult and criticize every notion that the speaker has brought up.  The rest of the audience is silently thinking to themselves “wow this is really uncomfortable, this guy is really going at it”.  Finally, the speaker has a chance to respond.

    There are really two ways he could respond, and I want you to think about what each response communicates to the audience.  The “subtext”, if you will.

    The first response he could give would be to fight back against the questioner with as much force as was used against him.  He could get upset and use words like “obviously, you don’t understand the very basic premise of this concept if you’re going to say that, what a ridiculous thing to say”.  The audience would see his emotional response and think “wow that really got to him, he lost his composure”.  In the back of their minds they’ll also be thinking “you know if he got that upset by it, maybe the guy was at least partially right, now I’m not sure”.

    The second response he could give would be to diffuse the criticism with tacit agreement.  “You know [slight laugh], that’s a great point thank you for bringing that up.  I’ll take that under consideration.  Ok…next question over here…”  In other words: treat it as if the guy had just said “Your name is Bubba Gump!”  It’s not even worth answering.  It’s as if a child had said it.  The audience’s perception is now the complete opposite: “wow that was really embarrassing for the guy who just asked that ridiculous question, he looked like a total idiot”.

    Getting emotionally upset gives your power away to the criticizer.

    Watch The Master Of This At Work: Donald Trump

    Whether you love him or hate, the next time you see Donald Trump on some news show, watch a master of diffusing criticism at work.  One of the other guests will usually rail into him, calling him all sorts of bad things and accusing him of publicity stunts, business failures, and misogyny.  What is Trump’s response?  He will usually tacitly agree and change the subject, the whole time as cool as a cucumber.  You’ll never see him get upset.

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    Someone could say “Mr. Trump is quite possibly one of the most dishonest people that I’ve seen in recent memory, he routinely exaggerates his business dealings, and I know personally a number of people who will never deal with him again.”

    The host will then turn it back over to Trump, and ask for his response.  “That’s right Larry, I mean this is an exciting time for the New York real estate market, and it’s great to see so many new people getting involved, there is going to be a small fortune made over the next few years by smart investors.”

    The accuser is thinking “wait, what just happened?  I called him a liar and he is talking about real estate sounding so happy.  He made me look like a whiny little kid.  Now I’m upset!”  Meanwhile, the audience has all but forgotten and is focused on something else.

    When taking criticism…

    • Tacitly agree and don’t get upset (this is how you lose your power)
    • Remember that the more upset you get, the more likely they were right
    • Don’t argue back, you’re not convincing people of anything
    • Finally, accept (and actively seek out) criticism from friends and mentors with an open mind.  You’ll find out things about yourself that everyone else has known for years but was too afraid to tell you.

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    Last Updated on December 3, 2019

    10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

    10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

    There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

    Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

    1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

    Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

    There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

    Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

    2. Pace Yourself

    Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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    Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

    Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

    3. You Can’t Please Everyone

    “I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

    You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

    Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

    4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

    Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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    We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

    Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

    5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

    “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

    No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

    We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

    6. It’s Not All About You

    You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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    It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

    7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

    No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

    We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

    Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

    8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

    That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

    Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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    Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

    9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

    Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

    The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

    10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

    We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

    When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

    Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

    This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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    Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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