Do you spend more time than you would like worrying, fretting or even agonizing about other people’s opinions of you? You are not alone, many people do the same every single day. If we allow it to, this behavior can rob our self-esteem, confidence and even our joy and it definitely is not the best use of the precious hours of our lives. Three scenarios and three questions below will help you understand why and when we believe other people’s opinions are so important to us. They will also give you the ability to choose how and by whom you want your life to be impacted. And lastly, three options for responding when unsolicited opinions leave you speechless (almost.)
Just a few days ago, I was angry. No, I was foaming-at-the-mouth-beside-myself rabid! As someone who helps others deal with and master all manner of situations, I am in no way proud of that. I share it because I think most people, especially mothers, will be able to relate.
My thirteen-year-old daughter sat at the table and told me about what had happened with one of the boys in her class. She and a friend were talking, when one of this particular teenager, widely known for his disruptive and disrespectful behavior toward the teachers and other students, snarled at my daughter, “Shut up, you piece of $/*+!”
Yes, he said exactly those words to my precious child! My eyes flashed red and for one hot, indignant moment, I was ready to do whatever was necessary to have that boy thrown out of school.
What struck me was how calm and unemotional my daughter was in retelling the story. She is, by most standards, a highly sensitive young lady. I was curious, so I asked her if she was trying to hold back feelings of anger and hurt. Her response spoke volumes far beyond the words.
“Mom, I was angry for a minute, but I am not hurt at all. Why should I be hurt by someone’s words if their opinion doesn’t matter to me?” Yeah, exactly.
While I still have a discussion planned with the teacher and hopefully the boy’s parents, all my daughter wanted to know was what would be a good response to communicate her boundaries, if something like this happens again. Did I mention how smart this kid is?
There is an old adage, “other people’s opinions of you are none of your business.” While adopting this viewpoint can be incredibly liberating, fully committing to living by it, is still an ongoing challenge for many and there is a reason for that.
There are different scenarios in which other people’s opinions have a greater effect on us than in other scenarios. By directing your attention to when you are most impacted by someone else, you begin to understand the true force behind that impact and you regain the power to allow or not allow those situations to affect you.
I have observed that there are three situations in which other’s opinions commonly elicit a strong emotional response from us. These include when:
• We perceive that our core values are challenged or threatened.
• The opinion corresponds with or affirms our own internal critic.
• The opinion corresponds with or affirms an unfulfilled need for approval and acceptance by ourselves and others.
The questions below will help you quickly gain a sense of what is happening with you and what the trigger for your reaction may be.
How often have you been deeply upset, angered and hurt by someone else’s less than favorable opinion of your behavior, your work, your parenting skills or something related to some other part of your life?
In this situation, you may perceive that your core values are being questioned or otherwise threatened. When someone’s negative opinion is directed at issues that relate to our core values, we can easily become raw with emotion. No one likes to have what matters most to them and essentially the core of their lives, challenged, threatened or otherwise compromised.
How many times has the person with the critical opinion been a complete stranger or someone you barely know, yet you still felt a deep blow that even surprised you?
When strangers deliver opinions that cause a strong reaction, especially a sense of hurt and rejection, it is often because we are hearing our inner critic repeat its’ message through someone else. It can almost seem like the other person has been spying on us from the inside. We subconsciously cringe at the thought that the inadequacies and faults that we perceive in ourselves must be so obvious that even strangers have an opinion on them.
How frequently has the opinion that pricked or pierced you like a poisoned needle, come from a friend or family member?
Whether we realize it or not, we all have the need to be loved and accepted and even to some degree, to have approval of us. Unfortunately, too often we attempt to delegate this task to those who are close to us through friendship or family ties. It is wonderful and extremely supportive when our friends and family rally around us in this way. It can also be problematic, when not only do we expect our friends and family to love, accept and approve of us, we mistakenly believe that we need this before we can be fulfilled or achieve what we want.
Often we don’t recognize that the love and acceptance of just one person, ourselves, is what is truly missing. Self-love and self-acceptance can make all the difference in whether we are left vulnerable through the opinion of others or we are resilient enough to use those opinions as feedback to be gleaned for what is helpful and empowering, leaving the rest behind.
Even when we know what triggers us, an unexpected negative opinion can still throw us off and we are left speechless. We have all been there.
The next time someone offers you an unsolicited opinion, especially a negative one, here are some options for responding:
• Remember the old adage and repeat after me; “Other people’s opinions of me are none of my business.” Then, go old-school and let them talk to the hand.
• Just say “No, thanks.” Like that third piece of death-by-chocolate cake, you have the right to decline what really isn’t good for you.
• Glean for value. “What makes you say that?” Hint, if the other person’s answer sounds a little like “Ummm, I’m just being a jerk,” accept that at face value and move on.
How have you been allowing other people’s opinions to get in the way of you achieving what you really want in your life or your business?