It is an unfortunate human condition that many of us often gravitate towards the negative side of things. I suffered this truth when faced with my mother-in-law’s most recent comment at our latest family gathering: “Oh, that’s different!” My immediate thought was, hey, did my mother-in-law just insult me? Where is that kitchen knife I just put down? I quickly realized that being overly sensitive to criticism (real or imagined) is a waste of time and energy.
Whether it be in the office or the mother-in-law arena we recommend responding to potentially critical situations (real or perceived negative communication) by suiting up with the Teflon of positive thinking.
Make your armor shine by evaluating criticism based upon facts, not perceptions or emotions. In addition, look for alternatives while keeping a positive outlook on the outcome. Sometimes, however, perceived criticisms have a way of sticking to us like honey on a bun. Then they become resentments. And mother-in-laws become enemies rather than family.
Having positive communication both in business and personal relationships takes effort, commitment and a view of the big picture. It comes down to a simple choice, according to Carnegie Melon Professor Randy Pausch. Pausch observed in his now-famous “The Last Lecture” that we have a choice of Winnie the Pooh character responses when communicating with others. We can be Tigger the Tiger, bouncing with energy and enthusiasm despite the incessant negative comments from Eeyore, or we can interpret our world through a dejected, negative viewpoint.
I reflected on choice this while my mother-in-law’s “that’s different” comment resonated around the dining room.
I thought about how our team responds to challenges and then recalled Pausch’s stunning lecture. I then turned to my mother-in-law and replied: “I’m glad you like it.” We both smiled. And meant it.
-Susanne LaFrankie, M.A.
Date May 2018