How to feel better if your feelings are hurt by what people are saying
- Why it's never about you, no matter how it sounds.
- How to avoid starting a war.
- Why being more you works better than rising to the bait.
- What to do if you're feeling critical yourself.
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Hi, everyone. My name is Dex Randall, and this is the Burnout to Leadership podcast where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hello, my friends, this is Dex. Welcome. How are you all doing today? I'm doing pretty lovely myself. Monday morning. Had a nice frothy dip in the ocean earlier on and it was good. Anyhow, let's get into it. I'm gonna invite you today to focus on other people. Well, not really, I jest. It's all on you, as usual, but it is about what you think other people are up to, other people's opinions. And even hearing those words, is your mind leaping to someone who mangled you or whose opinion you dread or fear? 'Cause our brains can be very pessimistic about the opinions people have about us, and our opinions about their opinions tend not to be all out favourable either, and we tend to think people are judging us harshly, whether they are or not. But guess what? Most people aren't thinking about us at all. Even when they utter a sentence with our name in it, they're thinking about themselves. So, let's have a closer look then at other people's opinions, according to you, because people in burnout, anxiety, chronic work stress tend to expend a lot of time and energy worrying about what other people think about them, and that can mean if we're doing that, that we're really immersed in this kind of stew of emotional discomfort. It's usually not a pleasant reflection. We don't typically sit there thinking, "Gee, I bet Gordon really loves what I'm doing right now. I bet he's a huge fan. I bet I'm gonna get a raise." And we give the pot a stir all through the day, bringing all our mess of worries back to the surface, because it's such a familiar way for us to spend time. It's such a known state. We know who we are when we're worrying. No one can take us by surprise, and say something that knocks us over, because we got there first. So, when we worry about other people's opinions, what we're really worried about is judgment, acceptance, belonging, risk, safety, aggression. We want to know we're safe in the herd and that our lives will not be disrupted by... Let's call it social adversity. It's also quite a bit about resistance to change and the unknown. In the anxiety of worrying about being judged and rejected, what we're really saying is, "Yeah, things are probably okay ish right now, survivable right now, but if that person gets mad or disses me or has a go at me, the whole thing could come crashing down, and then everyone will find out I'm useless, and things could go really bad, really fast." Especially at work, where so much of what we're able to do and achieve seems to rest on the words and actions of others. It feels like that. My position at work is only as secure as long as no one's disagreeing with me, blocking me, jostling for position at my expense, or just simply being a bit of a dick, right? That's the conversation in our heads. Is the world against me right now? Well, you know, it could be. But let's pull back a little bit on that. If we worry about external adversity, in any social context, any interpersonal relationship context, what we're really saying is, "Well, I'm really not strong inside myself. My work results, my attitude, the things I'm getting done right now, not quite sure. Hope no one else notices I'm getting it wrong. Hope no one else feels the same way and joins in, basically. But what if they do? What if they do?" So we are judging ourselves and projecting it on to innocent other people, usually. So let's face it, most people aren't thinking about us at all. They're thinking about themselves. Relationships are complex and often relate so much more to the energy we're putting out in the world much more than the things we do or don't do. People know we're human and flawed. They know we have blips in performance or effort or mood, and sometimes they might even be aware when we are having problems at home or outside of work, but they also know what kind of person we basically are. If we have performed in the past, if they like us and work well with us, we might have some emotional capital stashed away with them already, and when I look at my clients, to a man, they're good guys, willing, responsible, hard working, well intentioned, big hearted, decent, striving to do good in their world. And when I said that, what's your brain saying to you about you? Is it agreeing that you're a good guy, or is it telling you, "Yeah, that's not you, pal, you're the exception, you're the a bad guy"? Because that voice in your head right now, it's the opinion you're going to project onto other people, you're gonna pretend that other people have about you, and no wonder then if it hurts. And by the way, in passing, if you ever want coaching from me, guaranteed, I'm gonna see your good side, even if you don't. You're not the exception. Don't worry. Anyhow, so when you fear the judgment of others, it's always because of what you're saying to yourself about yourself. If you're being mean, unsupportive, unappreciative of yourself, you're gonna be pretty worried about what other people think about you too. But let's look now at those times when other people actually do criticise you. They actually say words that don't reflect well on you in your opinion. Well, for one thing, you might have misinterpreted what they said. They might have said one thing and you heard another, so good to check your facts before you go off the deep end. Well, let's say they did, they did criticise you fair and square. I think of it like this, if you've got 10 people in a room, and you ask them what they think of your work, you'll get 10 different responses, won't you? Each person's opinions about everything, about the world, not just you come from their life experiences, largely formed when they were children, because that's when we absorb the bulk of our values and beliefs about what's good behavior and what's bad behavior. Whatever our parents and other teachers and influencers taught us when we were kids, so those beliefs will have usually gone pretty much unquestioned, unchallenged since then. Each of us thinks that they're facts, they're the only way things can be done, and that's where war start. When someone criticises you, what they really mean is, According to my beliefs, if I did the thing you just did, I would criticise myself for it. I wouldn't think I was doing it right. So when you really get this, suddenly the words that seemed like an attack are not actually about you at all, they're not personal, they're just an internal monologue projected outwards. Remember, most people are thinking about themselves most of the time, they have an inner critic just like you. So try it, next time someone criticises you, hear the incoming words as not about me, not personal, hear them criticising themselves. And it might evoke in you some compassion more than anger, it might give you an insight into their humanity, their fragility. And I always fondly imagine this is what makes people like the Dalai Lama completely impervious to criticism thinking this way. So anyway, if that's true, since no two people grow up with the same set of values and beliefs, it's also true that you really can't please all of the people all of the time, and the truth is, it's not worth trying, that would be people pleasing. You have your own beliefs about what a good person is, and they're the only beliefs you can live by in the end. That's what authenticity looks like, there's only one you, you're perfect already, your gift to the world is who you actually are underneath all the squeaks. Notice also that if somebody accuses you of doing a sloppy job on something, the only reason you're gonna react to that is if a piece of you agrees with them, if you a little bit think it's true, and that's a tip off. If your feelings are hurt, now you know why, it's a good question to ask yourself if you're criticised, What part of this is or might be true? And then you can course correct on that. Because otherwise other people's opinions are just information for you to use or discard as you see fit. Often it can be helpful as well to try and see the other person's point of view, why do they hold that belief? It might help you broaden your understanding and it might promote better communication between you. You might even discover that you're on the same side after all. Just don't assume, even if they did criticise you, that it was personal. In other words, don't use it to start a fight because you can end up fighting everyone who doesn't hold the same views as you, and that's a very expensive pursuit. And by the way, watch out for pity in all of this. I hate being pitied, I don't know about you. But compassion is very powerful, it leaves us on the same level, it acknowledges we're both human, both fallible and that's okay. It keeps the playing field level, it doesn't diminish anyone's dignity or strength. When someone shares compassion with me or vice versa, I feel the warmth of connection and shared purpose, it uplifts me. And while acknowledging defeat, differences, hiccups, bad behaviors, whatever you wanna call it, we're both fundamentally supporters of each other, we are on the same sign. So often when I find myself needing to share tough feedback with someone else, I actually share one of my own blunders or failures at the same time. No one's less than, no one's more than. No one's motives, willingness or desire to serve are questioned. In fact, motives are something we often do get wrong, aren't they? We think people think badly of us, we think they're out to get us, we are suspicious even when they praise or thank us. Or perhaps especially when they praise or thank us. No wonder our relationships aren't as good as they could be. We limit our ability to collaborate powerfully with people like this. And let's also think about when we're the person with the low opinion of someone else, all the questions we just looked at to check in on that can be applied to us too. What beliefs do we have that cause us to think the other person is wrong? Why do we hold that belief? Who taught us that belief? Is it still useful? Do we still wanna keep it? Why are we suspicious of this person and their motives? What's happened between us that destroyed our trust? And was that actually valid can it be fixed? Are they really wrong? What if they acted out of inner turmoil, nothing to do with me? What if in their belief systems, they did the right thing? Why do we need them to follow our rules or agree with our way of doing things? Because sometimes when we can see more clearly, we can just let them be particularly as our efforts to change other people are rarely successful, and they're really very emotionally draining. So for me, when I think about other people's opinions, I mostly just remember what I've shared here, and I develop my energy basically onto other projects, I give it up and move on because their opinions or their business they got nothing to do with me. They don't say anything about me. I hope you've heard something today that really helps you detach yourself from opinions a little and from the pain of opinions a little, because that's how we stop the war we're waging with an unfair world. The world was never fair, it's never going to be, but we can usually thrive just the same. So thank you so much for listening today, that's all I got for you. To hear more or see the show notes, visit burnouttoleadership.com and I'm gonna talk to you next time. If you're in burnout and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout To Leadership program. You can book in to talk with me at burnout.dexrandall.com. Just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.