Over the years, I’ve always thought of myself as being open to the opinion of others. There’s a lot to be said for getting a second opinion, and seeking out more insight about what you are doing. This year, I’ve been reading a lot of books to help me evolve the way I think and act. But what I’ve found really interesting is the amount of unsolicited advice and opinions of others I’ve received this year. So, this morning I’m thinking about how to deal with other people’s opinions.
Most People Mean Well
The first thing I’ll start by saying is I think that most people mean well and have the best intention at heart when it comes to their advice or opinions. Maybe I’m being naive, or optimistic, but I’m ok with that. I recognise that some people straight up aren’t.
I’ve spent the last couple of days trying to figure out why certain people say certain things. I can’t quite tell exactly, but from everything I’ve been reading recently, there’s a clear message that as your life changes, some people won’t want that change to happen.
Maybe it’s your friend that’s always been the “sporty one”, and as you weren’t, they don’t want to embrace your new-found interest in exercise.
It might just be straight-up jealousy from some people.
Whatever it is, or isn’t, I’ve realised that I listen to everybody’s 2 cents, and I’ve started almost cataloguing the information and also the “perceived” intent.
How to deal with other peoples negative opinions
I’ve had some pretty surreal conversations. To paraphrase someone the other day, “Are you sure you’re a healthy weight and not too skinny?”. Now, what’s interesting is, if a doctor said that to me, or maybe a professional athlete, coach or trainer, I may be inclined to reply with “I hadn’t thought of that”.
In reality, though, the person saying it has no qualifications to the best of my knowledge. Isn’t in optimal physical health, and again, to the best of my knowledge has been in a bit of a downward spiral for quite some time.
My first response is to tell that person to piss off, and that by any scale or measure from a medical point of view, I was sitting firmly in the healthy weight range for my height and age.
But, my response-ability allows me to simply take a step back, absorb the new info, and then, whilst cataloguing what was said and what I perceived as the intention, I can move on without letting that opinion affect me.
How to deal with other people’s positive opinions
I’m not looking for praise. However, when someone who is a personal trainer, or in great physical shape, gives you a nod and says, “I’m really impressed with everything you’ve done so far this year”, that’s something you take to the bank.
Note, someone that you’ve known for some time, who has always been physically active and that actually works in the field of helping people to get healthy. Now that’s the opinion you want to take on board. Not because it’s positive, but because it has substance, experience and knowledge behind it.
How To Deal With Other People’s Opinions
So in general terms, I try to differentiate the people who are giving me their opinions into two categories:
- Positive intentions
- Negative intentions
From there, I’m able to pull on what I know about the person. And then there is a simple question I ask myself about what they’ve said:
Is this person qualified (experience, knowledge or understanding of the topic) to say what they are saying?
This makes it easy to then sort this input into one of 2 categories:
- Useful information (negative or positive), from a qualified source.
- Useless information (negative or positive), from an unqualified source.
The difference is huge between these two outcomes and what I subsequently do with that information.
Simply put, when it comes to useful information from a qualified source, it’s time to look at the way I’m doing things, and seek out more information to see how I can improve. This will often include a conversation with the very person that triggers the idea in the first place.
If it’s the flip-side of the coin, and it’s useless information from an unqualified source, it basically goes straight to trash and isn’t something that I retain or think about.
As I mentioned earlier, I want to believe that most people are trying to be helpful and have a positive intention (not all), so I treat them and their information in that way. Courteously and thankfully, but definitely not to be internalised or acted upon.
If you’re going through any changes in your life, big or small, and others start to notice it, be very aware of how people around you react, and keep a close eye on the intention of what they say, but more importantly why they’re saying it. It might be more about them than you.
My Rule of Thumb
Always remember to analyse, before you internalise.
Have you ever experienced something similar where you tried to make a positive change in your life and ended up getting a barrage of opinions, both positive and negative? If so, let me know in the comments and let me know how you dealt with other people’s opinions.