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How Do You Accept Criticism?

Posted by on Feb 27, 2013
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Something different than the norm; that’s what I’m all about. What I’ve done today is what I’m calling a two-fer. You’ll see there’s a video below. I not only recorded a second video, which I actually did first, but I also wrote another post on my business blog on the same topic; kind of. The topic over there was Does Your Criticism Help? On that post I gave some ways that people can offer criticism, or advice, to others that’s helpful and positive. On this post I’m going to offer ways to ask people for advice and how to accept criticism, even when it’s bad criticism.

Angel

What’s bad criticism? When there’s nothing positive offered or nothing helpful, it’s bad criticism. Sometimes people don’t know that the criticism they’re giving isn’t helpful, either because they just don’t know how to be helpful or you haven’t helped by telling them what you need. That’s what I’m here to help you with by offering 5 tips you didn’t ask for; hey, you came to the blog didn’t you? ;-)

1. When you need help, make sure you ask the right people for it. One of the problems most of us end up with is that we’ll ask people who don’t have experience in what we need for help rather than asking someone who might really be able to help you. If your friend fixes cars every day for 10 hours, asking them for help with your blog is illogical, no matter how smart they are.

2. When you ask for advice, be specific in what you’re looking for. When I was writing my first book someone I knew asked if he could see a portion of it, so I sent him the first 50 pages. He wrote back asking me if I knew anything about writing and formatting a book. What he didn’t do was give any commentary on what I’d written, which is what I wanted him to critique. It was an early draft that I hadn’t even finished, so everything he said wasn’t helpful. Instead, I shut down and thought about giving up the idea of writing the thing… for about 2 hours. If I’d been weaker I would have just quit but I knew better; after all, what had he ever written?

3. If you start whining or complaining about something, you almost have to expect that the person you’re talking to is going to offer something, positive or not. Two problems most of us have is that we don’t qualify the person we’re talking to all the time first, and we don’t tell people what we really want before we open up. I forget to do these sometimes and I end up not enjoying the conversation later on. I’ve also been on the advising side, although much more rare because most of the time I don’t like giving advice unless I’m specifically asked for it. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize when someone needs help versus when someone wants to vent.

4. If someone starts offering criticism, even if you’re thinking about arguing with it, try to at least let the person finish their first thought, in case they might be right about something. Yeah, that’s hard to do, and yet sometimes the person might be spot on, and you just didn’t want to acknowledge it though you realize it is true.

5. If you feel you’re getting beaten up, you have the right to either tell the person you don’t want to hear anymore or leave. Sure, you might need the help, but if all you hear is negative stuff, with no idea if something positive is coming, you’re not going to respond well to it, no matter what’s coming afterwards.

When I heard some of what I did yesterday, I came home, closed my blinds, turned off all my lights, turned off my cellphone and disconnected the regular phone, and crawled into bed. I was just going to check out, not do anything for a few days. Then my other mind kicked in after about an hour and said “who’s running your life?” Thing is, that doesn’t always happen so fast, although it always happens eventually. But I know people who have let something like that stop them in their tracks and give up their dreams; I could never live with myself if someone did that because of me.

That’s all I’m giving as far as writing advice goes; see how nice I was? :-D Now it’s time for the video and, based on what I learned this past weekend, I’m supposed to ask you to watch it, “like” it, comment on it, and share it wherever you can think of. So I’m doing all that here, and I do it at the end of the video; let’s see who actually watches it and who says they watched it but didn’t, since I do see the stats. Have a great day!


 

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57 Comments »

Mitchell Allen:

Mitch, point #4 was really hard for me. However, whenever I managed to let people finish, I almost always learned something valuable. In addition, by letting the person get things out in the open, we defused, de-escalated and worked through the issues more quickly.

There’s a whole world of words beneath the surface of criticism. Hurt feelings, jealousy and rage sometimes leak out. We have to be careful to distinguish between sniping and constructive feedback. That’s only possible if you let the speaker finish – as long as it’s not verbal abuse.

Cheers,

Mitch

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

I’m with you Mitch. It can be hard, especially if it’s not directed at work or performance but a personal evaluation that you might not have asked for. Still, sometimes there are lessons in there… sometimes that is. lol

Kevin Reply:

I’m pretty good at letting them finish, the problem is actually listening to what they say! And that doesn’t mean they don’t have a good point- it’s just plain hard to take criticism sometimes after putting in so much effort.
Kevin recently posted…Great Fish For Your First Saltwater AqauriumMy Profile

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

I hear that Kevin, and I can’t disagree with it. I try to never devalue effort.

February 27th, 2013 | 2:33 AM

Absolutely. I can remember so many bridges being built as a result of just listening and taking in what others said.

Part of the art of handling criticism is recognizing this fundamental truth: not everyone is an eloquent speaker. Sometimes people sputter, stutter and stumble around their words on the way to “telling you about yourself”. If you allow the mode to distract you, you’ll likely miss the message.

Cheers,

Mitch
Mitchell Allen recently posted…ReapersMy Profile

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Mitch, I’m still not great at it because I need it delivered in a helpful way, not a condescending way, which is where my mind goes if I don’t like what I’m hearing. As I said, I treat people as I want to be treated and if it doesn’t come at me that way, I’m not always going to listen, though I work on that. You’re right though, not everyone has the skills to do it right.

February 27th, 2013 | 2:44 AM

All feedback can be useful in one form or another.

I once had a guy call me to COMPLAIN about one of my signs I had out advertising my service.

This dude went out of the way to call me and tell me how much he hated my sign.

I ended up changing my sign and got more clients the next week.

Also, I changed my design theme after people made some comments that my content was “confusing”.

My attitude is all of these things are small for a giant, and I want to be a giant.

PS:
Cool video.

How did you get the image of your book in the watermark pretty neat feature.
Jacko recently posted…What I learned from Annabel Candy – Q&A with the founder of SuccessfulBlogging.comMy Profile

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Thanks Jacko. Thing is, those people told you what the issue was, which gave you a chance to correct it. Without that, you wouldn’t have known what to change, in which case why change anything right? To me, it’s all about how a message is delivered; if there’s nothing there that’s actually helpful, it’s just fussing.

February 27th, 2013 | 9:43 AM

I think I do accept criticism positively but then there are different tones of criticizing and sometimes I do get offended based on wrong tones.
Keral Patel recently posted…Five Reasons You Should Have Your Own WebsiteMy Profile

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Same with me Keral. It can come out wrong and spoil your day drastically, even if someone perceives themselves as helping. It’s kind of like writing online. Every once in awhile you need to add that smiley face so people don’t think you’re being mean to them.

February 28th, 2013 | 2:38 AM

It’s hard for me to sit there and not say anything, there are times I do catch myself interrupting the person talking to me. I also find though, it depends on how I was approached, if it seems more like an attack I am more likely to shut down, if not I am more likely to listen and see what I can get out of it. Love your points and I think if more people took them to heart and learn from them the better off we all would be!
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February 28th, 2013 | 12:02 PM

Hi Mitch, you’ve described a really important thing in your post. I guess that most of the leaders and owners of the entry-level small businesses cannot handle the negative critics, although they also could be turned into benefits. When its about marketing, there isn’t negative critics, their effect depends only how you handle them. The most important thing is to respond every critic you have. You can do it in the front of the public – if you have to communication skills required – or in a private message as well. Thanks for posting these inspirational thoughts, they’ve really made me thinking…
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Peter, I have no idea how to pronounce the name you use, so you’re going to be Peter to me. lol

It really is hard dealing with negative criticism, and many times it’s because of trust. We don’t overly trust people we don’t know well and we’re not always sure about the motives of people we do know. Also, it comes down to delivery and mindset at the time for each person. On the blogs, it’s easy to respond to criticism because we’re in our own space and we can read the words over and over if we must. On one of the blogs I write for that I don’t own, this guy criticized what I’d written, and I had to read my piece a couple of times before I realized that I’d said something meaning to say something else. Now, the way he criticized it was more instructive than not in that I agreed with what he was saying and thought that’s what I’d said; that’s enough of an understanding where I could accept his criticism because I realized it was a fault of the writing and not necessarily my position on the topic.

Still, giving criticism, or advice, is a skill as much as accepting it. I think most of us believe we’re good at the first.

February 28th, 2013 | 6:13 PM

Hello Mitchell,
When you need help, make sure you ask the right people for it.

I would say that this line it’s a bit confusing because your family, friends and / or acquaintances criticism it isn’t always objective.
Also, asking opinions from totally strangers can be a bad choice as they can really destroy your confidence. It’s a tricky world and not that many people want your best.

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Radu, that’s where making sure you ask the right people comes into play. I’d never ask any of my family members for any advice about any of my blogs because they don’t know the topic. I wouldn’t ask any of them for advice about my businesses for the same reason. But if there was a family situation I might figure out which one to call that’s either closest to knowing what’s going on or I figured could give counsel best based on history.

Radu Reply:

Speaking about family problems, perhaps is better to get advises only from your relative since the matter concern only a restricted circle and the criticism is much easy to bear.

February 28th, 2013 | 7:40 PM

I am pretty sensitive so I usually don’t ask to review my work. If I am not sure I simply look for tutorials and advice online, or read books on subject.

People can be quite moody and emotional, there is no guarantee that their criticism is objective anyway. That is not to say, it’s useless, but just another way of looking at things :)
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Thanks Elena. I don’t often ask for advice or critiques, but there are times when it’s necessary. In those times, I work on being specific as to what I want or need; helps ease things greatly on all fronts.

Elena Reply:

Oh yes, absolutely! I am not saying you shouldn’t do this, I am kind of looking for justification for not doing it myself because I am sensitive…lol If you can do it, more power to you! :D

March 1st, 2013 | 7:24 AM

Great article! I wish I was had been better able to listen to criticism when I was younger. I still struggle with it at times.

Now, about the background for your videos… :D
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

You see! lol Unfortunately, absolutely nothing I can do about it for now. Maybe one of these days when I decide to upgrade and buy a different kind of camera…

March 1st, 2013 | 12:53 PM

Hey Mitch,

Okay, that hasn’t happened to me in so long now that it’s refreshing. Personally, I don’t mind someone giving me “advice” but I prefer it only if I’m asking for it.

For someone to openly start criticizing you then I think that’s just wrong. I’m more of a communicator though, I don’t like arguing period.

I understand the points you’re making and even in the video. I totally get that too. I do my best to give suggestions and not actually tell anyone what to do because that always needs to be their decision.

In the past I never took criticism very well, I admit. But once I had a chance to think about it and if they were right I would go back and apologize if I acted in the wrong way.

Gosh, life is so much more peaceful these days. Yay!!!

~Adrienne
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

LOL; I’m all for peaceful Adrienne. I like Mitch’s point that no one actually likes criticism because of its negative tone. Advice, yeah, I can go along with that one, but even there only when asked. We do like to vent here and there; that’s part of our nature. We also like to wallow. There may be times when a little push of tough love might be warranted if someone is floundering, but only then. I’m more like you; we’re so bad!

March 1st, 2013 | 2:09 PM

Hey Mitch, I shared some of how I feel about this with you already, but just like you say people do not take critiques well even though they asked for it.

Also, we have to be real clear about the advice we are asking for. I hate when people ask you a generic question like “How do you like my blog”.

That is an open-ended question and sometimes you may give too much advice. The blog owner ends up mad at you for you being too honest or cruel, however you take it.

I try to avoid giving generic advice to people I do not know well. Good topic, it is along my articles. I love it.
Michael Belk recently posted…What makes a lawsuit ethical; laws or personal ethics?My Profile

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Thanks for your comment Michael, and we did talk about it and some other things. Those generic questions are tough to deal with. Then again, being asked by your wife “how do I look in this dress” or something like that is a question I told her a long time ago I’d never answer because there’s really only one real answer for it. lol

March 1st, 2013 | 11:53 PM

No one wants to hear anything negative, but criticism is a fact of life. I have found the best way to handle criticism is to take a step back and externalize it. If you can do that, you can look at it objectively, and you can acknowledge the parts of the criticism that are valid and constructive (and discard the rest). However, too many people get defensive and lose out on the benefit of constructive criticism that can result in personal improvement. I personally take criticism as a way of personal growth. Nice article, Mitch!

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

I haven’t quite found that James. Thing is, when I was a regular working person, aka non-management, I overdid and over-gave and didn’t give anyone a chance to criticize anything I did. When I was in management, pretty much the same thing. Course, working in health care meant that no one else could criticize what I was doing because they didn’t know what I did. lol

Overall, if I ask for it then I get what I get. However, I ask using the tips I gave in this post so I can get what I need specifically. There’s this thing that says if people don’t get your message it’s your fault I believe that.

March 2nd, 2013 | 4:48 AM

Hey Mitch, good to ‘see’ you. :)

The answer to your question on how well I receive criticism is dependent on a number of things:

1. Whether I’ve asked for it or not.
2. My perceived competence of the person giving the criticism on the subject in question.
3. What I suspect their motivation to be.

That’s about it but to expand a bit on each point.

1. Univited critisism that takes me by surprise and where I’ve not really volunteered any reservations of my own is not usually welcome unless it is packaged in a supportive and constructive way, with praise.

2. Competency of the critic – if I regard them as not being as competent as me or wide of the mark I will politely deflect the criticism and not engage too much.

3. Motivation – like it or not there are people who want to help build you up and those that due to their own insecurities, want to tear you down. Hopefully I don’t have any friends in the latter category but regardless, if I suspect that someone is motivated by a desire to make me feel bad then I won’t take it well. If I think their motivation is to help me then I’ll listen – and the extent to which I’ll listen is moderated by #2 above.

Now – I’m going to invite your criticism Mitch. We’ve spoken about Toastmasters before and I think I may have mentioned to you how difficult I find Table Topics. Well, I’m challenging myself to get over this and am committing to video and publicly share each one I get to do from this point forward. My blog post talks about it and I’m showing my first video with the evaluation within.

I do know already it wasn’t great but I would like your criticism. :)
Roz Bennetts recently posted…My Toastmasters Table-Topics Journey BeginsMy Profile

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Great comment Roz, and you didn’t say a single thing that I disagree with. Most of the time I don’t ask, so when it comes unsolicited I will tend to clam up and tune out. I think that’s one of the things about blogging; you put something out there, and if it invites criticism you can’t really say you didn’t ask for it because it’s out there. In other places though, such as being in public, you can say it. Just because you wear a certain outfit doesn’t mean people can walk up to you & criticize you for it, though I’ve yet to meet the person who didn’t appreciate me, or anyone else, complimenting them on what they decided to wear that day.

And by now you’ve probably seen my response to your table topics video. ;-)

March 2nd, 2013 | 12:38 PM

Excellent post, Mitch! The points you have covered here are very realistic and needs to be considered by person who is really very dicey about how to handle critics and their mentality. Dealing with criticism from others is tough, but you always have a choice about how to deal with it. Normally, I tend to ask myself, “What part of this criticism is useful?”. I believe filtering out the things that are actionable and repeatable from what can often be a lot of subjective opinion is a good thing. Keep what’s applicable to what you do and filter out the rest. Always remember, haters gonna hate, but even they sometimes hate for reasons worth considering.

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Jack, I do none of that unless I’m expecting it. To me, unless someone is close to killing themselves they really don’t want to hear anything from me. Now, I might ask if I can say something, and if they do you can believe I’m going to be nice and offer suggestions and, hopefully, not hurt anyone’s feelings. But suggestions aren’t criticism; I reserve that for when I need someone to change for my benefit & the benefit of an organization.

March 5th, 2013 | 2:06 AM
David:

I personally take criticism very positively, though I don’t express it to the person giving it. But I do a lot of introspection when someone criticizes me, just to see if there is anything right about the criticism or not. But I would also like to admit that if I feel that the person criticizing me is doing it just to look down upon me, I get offended.

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

I hope that works well for you David. It can be good if it’s given properly, but I just don’t feel many people know how to do it so it’s productive.

March 6th, 2013 | 5:50 AM
Troy:

I love point #5. Sometimes it takes some guts to stand up for yourself when you know what you’re doing isn’t as bad as some can make it seem! An overflow of negative comments can really ruin your day, and whatever you may be working on. But on the other hand, sometimes it’s a good personal challenge to stand up to the negativity by hearing it through, then breaking it down to see if there is really anything of value there. Even a broken clock is right twice a day- so look for ANYTHING that could be helpful!

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Possibly Troy. I can’t remember who said it but it also depends on the motivation of the person who’s giving the criticism or advice. You’re right, sometimes even a person who’s wrong most of the time can be correct. But if we believed that we should accept it from just anyone, I like to pull out the names of people who we know were evil and bad in history because even those people were right once in awhile, but none of us care.

March 7th, 2013 | 5:12 PM

I do not avoid criticism as long as it will help to grow positively on the right side. But if it too much and I can’t take it any longer, I just leave as if I did not hear anything.

Just to add some advice, if you want to hear criticism about you or something about your job, it is better to hear from people you don’t know. I don’t know if I were right about this idea, co’z if you asked for criticism from your family or friends, they won’t tell you negative things thinking that they might hurt you.
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

That’s an interesting take Rusty. I’m not sure I totally agree, although it does seem like its easier to talk to people you don’t know as well.

March 8th, 2013 | 3:24 AM
Steve:

You have asked a very complex question Mitch, handling criticism doesn’t come naturally to everyone. For instance talking about myself I can’t take criticism at all, I rather go for self-criticism. This is because I don’t anybody is perfect, and someone himself/herself is not perfect, how can they criticize me.

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Absolutely Steve. I don’t want to talk about me with anyone unless I ask for something specific. Business, now that’s a different thing but even there wait until I ask.

March 8th, 2013 | 4:52 AM
Daniel:

We all come across a phase where someone criticizes us. However, there is a way to accept that criticizm without getting angry and using it in the right way to bring a positive change in us, which is for our good. I guess staying calm and positive in such a situation is very important.

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Daniel, the question is whether you have to accept criticism at all. Sure, if you ask for it, or advice, then yes, you’ve broached the subject and it’s all good. But if you didn’t, or aren’t getting what you really asked for, was it worth anything to you?

March 9th, 2013 | 5:02 AM

Mitch,

I don’t take criticism well either but I do know when it’s constructive (like you said in the video) I will receive it whether I like it or not.

Case in point: Last year I was at an event with some other women and made a comment about the lack of support from black women in my community. It was directed at one person specifically. Later that evening, a friend of mine (whose opinion I totally respect) called to tell me she thought I was out of line and that was not the place to air my grievance. It was “constructive criticism.” It convicted my spirit and I ended up apologizing to that person.

I, personally, don’t think the average person knows how to give “constructive criticism.” The idea is to help someone grow, while pointing our areas where they can do that.

The fact that no one commented on the content of your newsletter may mean they enjoyed it. Pointing out the font or background was their way of giving you feedback based on their own personal taste. I am wondering how many opens you had on that first newsletter versus subsequent opens. That may give you a better reading on whether people actually enjoyed your content.

OK—so I watched the entire video even though I tell my clients that more than 3 minutes is TOO LONG :)
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

LOL! Bev, you like short; short videos, short books, short blog posts. I’m sure you’ve watched The View, where they have those long segments, then the first interview is always the longest as well and people stay engaged through it all. I’m either engaging or not whether it’s 3 minutes or 10 minutes; that’s how I feel. :-)

I also don’t believe most people know how to dole out criticism or how to take it, which is why I did this 2 part series. Truthfully, I feel most of us are under no obligation to have to take criticism we didn’t ask for in our normal lives. Work is a different animal but even there, one can sculpt how they receive it if they have the confidence to try. To me, there’s a difference in feeling bad because I might not have performed well or feeling bad because I had to allow another adult to act badly towards me while delivering their critique. On the first I might grow, but on the second… just too many wildcards to make it an effective way to go.

March 10th, 2013 | 9:27 AM

I have always taken criticizm as an appreciation because I know I am going to learn a lot from it. We can improve our weak points with the help of criticizm. I obviously feel offended in the first place, but then I try to understand how important it is to stay cool.
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

So Bruce, if I criticize you because you keep misspelling “criticism”, you’re cool with that? lol See, I take the chance there to point that out one, to make a point that you didn’t ask me to correct your spelling and, because I don’t know you, it’s possible that you could take offense, and two, to ask why anyone should be expected to stay cool when they might not have asked for the criticism or advice. Are we all under the obligation to have to accept criticism at all times of the day in all venues? Of course, on the blog if one puts out an opinion then it’s to be expected. But if I post a picture of a puppy and someone wants to come along and ruin my good feeling and great day by bashing me for whatever the reason, am I really supposed to just stay cool and accept it?

Can you tell I wouldn’t? lol

March 11th, 2013 | 2:24 AM

Criticism is a very good thing, it can bring very good results if taken in the right way. I am indifferent to criticism, I actually don’t pay much attention to what people say about me. For me it is my life and I have full rights to live it on my own, as long as I don’t harm or hurt others I don’t think there is anything wrong with me.

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

You’ve just offered up a dichotomy Jack. If you don’t care about criticism then how can it be a good thing?

March 11th, 2013 | 7:02 AM
Steve:

Nice post Mitch. Criticism is sometimes very difficult for me to accept because I am a very emotional guy and I seem to get carried when people say things. But as long as the criticism is for our better we should learn to accept them in a positive manner else we should say SHUT UP.

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Steve you might be right on that, but it can also be delivered differently to encourage us rather than make us feel bad.

March 12th, 2013 | 2:47 AM

I don’t believe in criticism, especially if you have an open mind. Consider those people who give you disheartening pep talks and discouraging words as your stepping stones to getting better. Why do I sound like the Dalai Lama? It’s because most of us think that criticism is always bad. People can’t help talking down to other people, or criticize them; it’s human nature. It’s up to you if you take these little things negatively.

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

I disagree with that in many ways Stacey, though I see your point. If you’re an employee & someone is criticizing you, at that point you have no choice but to accept it. But if you’re not an employee, you’re under no obligation whatsoever to have either an open mind or to even listen to it at all. Sure, it might be helpful, but I’m one of those folks who tends to believe that unless it’s really critical to the person you’re talking to, as in saving their lives, no one has the right to criticize someone else in the open.

March 12th, 2013 | 3:31 AM

Your 5th point is so true. Constructive criticism is all well and good but it has to be sweetened with some positives. If none are forthcoming make your excuses and leave!
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Thanks Shaun. I really believe that almost no one is totally bad across the board that there’s nothing positive to say about or to them. If so, then they don’t need to be together in any fashion.

March 19th, 2013 | 5:03 AM

I enjoyed your video (and post) and am completely mind-boggled that the people receiving your newsletter didn’t comment on the content! That’s… just… weird!

As for me and criticism – I used to dish it out a lot and be absolutely terrible at taking it. These days I still give advice and some is constructive and some isn’t, so the latter comes across as criticism even when that’s not what I’d intended.

How I take criticism tends to depend a lot on who it’s coming from and why it’s heading my way. If it comes out of the blue and from someone I don’t know well, or if it is completely out of context to whatever went before (in conversation or whatever) then I react very badly. However, I do tend to brood on things for days and during that time, I often learn some lessons from the criticism. And if it does have a positive effect, I often own up to that and thank the person – or at least let them know they have a point!

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

It’s a strange thing to deal with, isn’t it Val? If I’m brooding I’m not even entertaining the possibility of learning anything, which is a shame in many ways. I don’t mind disagreement, but criticism, or opinion, when I don’t ask for it is irksome. I get it often enough when it comes to eating, as people who aren’t diabetic seem to think they know more about how I should be eating than I do; tired of hearing that as well.

Val Reply:

I have a very old friend (from childhood) who is diabetic. Having had her jump down my throat many times when we were kids, I no longer give diabetics advice on what to eat! ;)

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

LOL! You understand!

April 29th, 2013 | 5:30 PM