Years ago, when my husband and I ran a furniture manufacturing and retail business, I would do twice yearly wholesale shopping trips to purchase the lamps, pictures, rugs and other accessories we sold in our store. While most of my shopping-savvy friends were green with envy at this opportunity, I really didn’t enjoy the trips.
The temporary ‘mall’ was about 1 million square feet of booths, all jammed together. Each booth, in turn, was absolutely jammed-pack with merchandise. I spent five consecutive, eight-hour days sifting through all kinds of products in search of one or two gems that would work with my store. It was pure mental and sensory overload.
The booth sales reps were also on a mission – they had five days to make their major sales for the next six months. If they didn’t meet their sales goals, there were real consequences for them.
As is bound to happen, many of the booths didn’t carry the style I was looking for, while others were overcrowded with little gift items that were not right for a furniture store. Being very sensitive and able to feel others’ emotions, I needed to find a quick way out of these booths without hurting anyone’s feelings, AND keep them buoyed up to keep selling.
If I tried to explain to the sales rep that this wasn’t the style I was looking for, or that, as a furniture store I couldn’t possibly sell custom gift wrapping, I would instantly be met with a battle – a battle to win me over, to prove that their product would indeed be perfect for my store if only I gave it a chance. If I was feeling ornery, I would then argue back, to prove that I was right and did know my own store’s customers! You can guess where that got me.
Out of desperation, I changed tactics
“Wow! I love your booth. What beautiful products you have.”
This instantly relaxed the sales reps. Knowing I already liked what I saw, they no longer felt the need to ‘sell’ me. A big smile spread across their face, and they let me browse in peace. When I left without purchasing anything, they would let me go with a friendly wave.
Was I lying? Heck no! These were all professional booths and they were all indeed selling nice things, even if they were not for me.
Applying this to your daily life
When was the last time someone tried to tell you how to do your job? Not just a ‘paid’ job either – how to be a mom, how to fix that thing in your garage, or how to ‘properly’ do something.? It’s very annoying, isn’t it? In essence, they are being critical of what you are doing.
So instead of getting your back up and explaining all the ‘whys’ you are doing something, simply complement them. For example:
1. Your mom is lecturing you on how to properly feed your child:
Mom: You’re not feeding him enough vegetables. How do you expect him to grow strong?
You: Mom, you’re such a good grandparent, it’s obvious you love my child very much.
2. Your retired neighbour is giving you unsolicited advice on how to properly mow the lawn:
Neighbour: You know, if you’d just raise your lawnmower blade by a 1/4″, but cut it more often, your grass would look as nice as mine.
You: You do have the nicest lawn on the block. I can see how much pride and time you spend on it and it shows.
3. Your co-worker is nit-picking some small aspect of your work:
Co-worker: You know Jane, if you spaced your Excel columns just a tad closer together, you could squeeze four more columns onto one printed page.
You: You really are an Excel expert, aren’t you? Maybe you could share your knowledge with everyone, and put together an Excel Lunch and Learn for the company?
How not to be that person
If you don’t like people criticizing you or your work, then don’t do it to others. It’s always possible to find something positive the other person is doing and point that out, instead of picking on their imperfections. Until you are perfect, which is doubtful, allow others’ their imperfections.
For example, my dance group recently did a show. One of the dancers nitpicked and criticized the other dancers for not being in the right spots, for not doing the right moves, or for stepping too loudly during one of the technical moves. I’ll admit – she really had me flustered.
When we watched the video of our performance later that night, guess who wasn’t perfect? Guess who turned the wrong way on a critical dance move? Guess who wasn’t standing in the right spot? I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t me.
It costs you absolutely nothing to say a kind word to other people. You make them feel good about themselves, which in turn makes you feel good. And really, isn’t this what anyone ever really wants?