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Creative Commons License photo credit: Peter Duhon
One of the results my writing this blog is that my chances of being the subject of criticism is much higher then it otherwise would be. Over 20,000 people visited this website last month. It simply isn’t possible to please everyone. Even if we were to try, in my experience, we ironically end up displeasing just about everyone as a result.


Many of us, including myself, often take criticism far too seriously. What we should keep in mind is that no one really cares. If someone harpoons me for an idiot and a moron, even if the whole world heard of it they will all have forgotten all about it ten minutes afterwards. Regardless of what we do we will always come under criticism. We simply can’t cater to everyone’s preferences and points of view.

Don’t Lose Your Sense of Humor
Here in Australia there is what we call “Tall Poppy Syndrome”. Just as soon as someone gets their head above the crowd you can be assured that someone else will do their best to cut them down. A sense of humor goes a long way in being able to skillfully deal with criticism. With humor we tend to take things a little less seriously.

Trying to respond to all your critics is not only impossible it is also a massive waste of time and energy. However, it would be incorrect to think I’m advocating ignoring all criticism and just steaming ahead regardless. We can learn a lot from our critics even if their criticism is unfair, unjustified and unconstructive.

My Recent Experience with Criticism
Recently I wrote an article on the Misperceptions and Misinformation Regarding Meat. I knew when I wrote the article that it would spark controversy. If ever there was a subject to get emotions running high among the health conscious meat is it. As you could imagine I didn’t escape unscathed.

One particular reader gave the article a thumbs down on StumbleUpon. Interestingly when I wrote the previous sentence I almost wrote: “One particular reader gave me a thumbs down on StumbleUpon”. It is amazing how easily we associate criticism of something we’ve attached to ourselves as being in fact criticism of ourselves. Anyway she also wrote a rather critical review.

The reader said I was closed minded and that I know what I think, and I think what I know is right, despite having a sketchy understanding of biological processes and a non-existence awareness of the bigger picture. My first reaction to this was, suffice to say, unskillful. Often our reactionary responses are. Our ego wants to lash out in its defense. But what harm is really being done here?

The Skillful Response
With a little mindfulness I was able to just watch my initial response and let it pass. At that point I realized that the reader had raised a valid point. In the article I had not dealt with the broader socio-environmental considerations of eating meat. Despite the fact this was not the subject of the article I clearly need at some point to deal with these issues. And so I shall. You’ll be able to enjoy an article on that topic soon. And I’ll probably get to practice my skillful response to criticism some more.

Instead of contacting the critical reader and letting the defensive abuse fly I sent her correspondence of a rather different sort. This is what I wrote:

Hi,

I wanted to thank you for your criticism of my piece on Misinformation & Misperceptions About Meat at Balanced Existence. Although the broader socio-environmental considerations were not the subject of the article you made me realize that I need to address these issues.

I’m assuming you were referring to such issues as those surrounding the inefficient feeding of grain to animals while millions starve and the production of methane gas by the masses of farmed animals contributing to global warming. However, I don’t like to make assumptions so I thought I would send you a message to see what socio-environmental-ethical issues regarding the consumption of meat you would like to see me address.

I also noticed you suffer from MS. It might interest you to know that I recently wrote an article regarding what neuroscience terms excitotoxins. These substances, which are in our food, have been associated with the speeding up and exacerbation of disease and disorders such as MS. So I thought you might be interested if you are not already aware of this issue. You can find the article here – http://www.balancedexistence.com/dumber/

All the best,

Stephen

The Result
Her response was exactly as I hoped it would be and confirmed a belief I hold that we get back what we give out. My tone of reasonableness was reciprocated. She thanked me for sending her my article regarding excitotoxins (which are making you dumber) and commented that she found it interesting and informative. She consequently gave it a thumbs up and a positive review on StumbleUpon.

In the end this reader explained her position on meat, which I wholly understand, complemented me on my blog and wished me every success. She is now a one of my friends on StumbleUpon.

I think it is important to note that the message I sent to this reader was genuine. I feel we can grow from all our experiences. It is only our ego that passes judgment as to what is good, bad or neutral. Experiences are experiences. There is no need to label and limit them with subjective judgments. Once I got passed my initial unskillful reaction I could see that there was something positive I could take away from her criticism. For that I was and remain thankful.


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