Last week I took my kids to a preschool event at Oaks Park where for $6 they got to ride the frog hopper and drive the kiddie cars to their hearts content. At the end of the event there was a massive story hour (picture 300 preschool kids, a swarm of guardians, one dairy princess and a giant squirrel mascot).

While the dairy princess was reading a story to the sea of preschoolers I noticed a little girl crying. She was obviously lost. I grabbed her hand and took her to the stage so the dairy princess could make an announcement. When I returned I noticed my 3 1/2 year old son was gone. I said to myself out loud, “Now where did Anthony go?” One mom turned to me and said “Well you just took off! He was following you but you didn’t even see him.” (Eventually I found him next to the squirrel.)

I was so mad at that mom for publicly criticizing me! On the way home, I stewed, trying to think of the perfect thing I could have said to her in retaliation. Then I remembered a trick I learned from Martha Beck.

It’s called You Make a Solid Point.

What do you do when someone criticizes you? Does it make you mad? Do you get defensive? Do you try to explain yourself? Do you send snide emails? Do you stew for days like me trying to think of the perfect comeback?

I think the reason criticism bothers us so much is because deep down we believe it’s not okay to screw up. We don’t want to face our own fallibility.

When that mom pointed out I “just took off,” leaving my own son to help that little girl, on the surface I was angry at her but underneath I felt ashamed.

If it were a friend who had done the same thing, I would have comforted her, saying something like: “Don’t worry about it! You’re so hard on yourself, jeesh. You found him right away and you were the only one who bothered to help that little girl. You should be proud of yourself.”

Which is so interesting. How can I be so kind when it comes to someone else but so unforgiving when it comes to me? Everyone makes mistakes so why shouldn’t I be willing to acknowledge and forgive my own?

Try it. Think of something someone has said to you that has you feeling defensive. Acknowledge the part that’s true and forgive yourself. Maybe even laugh about it! When you’re not busy trying to disown the criticism you might actually learn something. One thing you will find is that it feels a lot better when you can forgive your mistakes. An added bonus is that it defuses an argument fast (I call it verbal jujitsu).

When it comes to that mom at Oaks Park, I realized I did just take off. So what? I found him right away and I helped a little girl. And the next time I jump to help a lost child I’ll make sure I don’t lose my own in the process!

Ahh it feels so much better to just give myself a break.

In fact, the next day I was driving past a neighbor and, honest to god, I thought she gave me a dirty look. I just laughed and said to myself “You make a solid point.”

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3 Responses

  1. Liz says:

    Amy, I am realllllly relating to this, as well. This solid point phrase will be difficult for me to implement, but so useful.

  2. Your advice was so timely. Thanks for validating this ongoing inner battle for me.

    Forever, my family has told me that I am always defensive.
    I beg to differ….for to me, I just have an enormous need to explain my reasons for doing/saying/acting/believing, just name an “ing” and I bet it will apply. I have always needed to be understood because I feel that people must think I am foolish or stupid when, tho I often feel that way, intellectually I know I am not. I even take extra time when doing a task or making a decision to make sure I don’t screw up. Ever. Obviously, my success rate is no better or worse than the average person.

    I currently work in a tennis pro shop. Yesterday morning a woman called to reserve a court for later in the day. She requested a particular court but it was already taken so I offered her the adjacent court. Done…maybe.

    Later in the day when she arrived, the man on the court she initially wanted called the pro shop and asked what court she was given. I replied….and she immediately came on the phone to emphatically say her court was completely sunny and she asked for a shady court. She then asked to move to the court behind her, which was indeed in the shade. I don’t play on the courts. Most people will be specific and ask for a shady court if that’s what they need. As the conversation unfolded, I kept thinking, did I miss something? How did I make this mistake? After all this is not brain surgery. I was taken off guard….and I simply apologized to her feeling like my mistake was somehow monumental. Her next response left me angry….she replied in a sarcastic tone…”You should be sorry!”

    I wanted to go to the court and apologize in person. I felt stupid and wrong. But more than that,I was angry with her insolence. Even tho I thought, your attitude is unwarranted, it would have been completely out of character for me to confront her. I am always the person who takes the blame and apologizes. This too, is a trait I am working on. When not deserving, I am no longer going to suck it up. Having worked in a tough industry on the customer service end for 25 years, I know I possess the skills to stand my ground without being offensive. I am working to incorporate that into my personal life as well.

    That day I had to mentally “talk myself down” from the embarrassment of the mistake but also for allowing her to be so disrespectful. In my head I went over our initial morning conversation until I recalled exactly what she had requested. She wanted court #10. When I told her it was already reserved, I simply offered court #9….and she agreed to take it. I’m sure she thought I read her mind regarding the need for the court to be in the shade (which she never asked of me) but I couldn’t. Not that day, nor any day.

    My need to explain myself and prove that I am not an imbecile was overbearing at the moment. I weighed the pros and cons of a face to face to explain my mistake. I thought about apologizing again. I thought about asking for an apology. Eventually, I decided that it was enough for me to understand where the mis-communication came from. I stewed about her rude response for another hour or so and finally came to terms with myself. I stopped thinking about and stopped beating myself up. As for her part….she will someday meet her match. Today that person is not me.

    This was a big turning point for me. The deep seated feeling of never being enough manifests itself in all facets of my life. I am on the defensive but I am slowly….bit by bit…learning that I can let the chips fall where they may. I will never be all things to all people so I might as well be the best Me I can be at least for my own sanity and well being. I’m human. I make mistakes. And so do those who judge me. That….for now….is enough.

  3. Jessica M says:

    This makes total sense! I’m going to try this next time I have to handle some criticism.

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