Friday, June 5, 2015

Who are you giving to?

Today, I read something on Jeff Goins' lovely blog that stood out for me. In his post, he talks about how after the release of his new book, The Art of Work, he has spent a lot of time and attention replying to the negative comments, engaging with people who "want to argue, fight, or call me names" and not enough time replying to those who have positively reviewed his book.

We all can relate to this on some level. We all pay attention to the naysayer or a single negative remark instead of focusing on the positive. That's part of human nature.

Goins talks about how this process has been for him and how he is shifting his attention away from detractors. He mentions one interaction in particular that gave him some insight into why people criticize so harshly. He says: "Not too long ago, I replied to a one-star review of my book and offered a refund to that person (as is my practice), and he sent me an email saying something that surprised me."

He said: "I had no idea authors read their reviews...If I knew you were listening, I would have been nicer."

Goins continues: "Wow. I appreciate the honesty, but isn't that indictment of society today? I would have been nicer to you, if I knew you'd hear what I was saying. This is not the kind of world that I want to be a part of." So, what is the solution? "Reward the givers, ignore the haters. Don't feed the trolls. You've heard this stuff before. So have I. So why do we ignore it? Because it's easier to argue than it is to appreciate."

It's easier to argue than it is to appreciate.

Goins continues: "Give your best stuff, including your attention, to the people who appreciate it." This does not mean that you are not open to constructive feedback. It does mean that you are not trying to convince everyone of the validity of your opinions. You are not trying to win everyone over.

There are people who simply don't connect with what we are doing. There are those that are actively discounting our work or our intentions. There are also those who, like Goins' detractor, might be expressing a casual, not-very-considered opinion. When we focus on these people, we magnify their effects on our lives.

Shifting our attention away is something we all need to learn. If you are a sensitive person, the criticism will, of course, sting for you. It might leave you reeling for some time. You might also feel like you have made a mistake and your conscientiousness can work against you in this case. You want to do things correctly, and someone is now effectively saying that you haven't.

Goins' experience also made me think of something else, how we often pay attention to the people who scream the loudest, overlooking people who don't shout out for attention. Again, we are directing our attention by default. Just like we get hooked by criticism, we get hooked by the loudest voice. In both cases, we need to become more discerning.

Who is it that we are spending our energy on? Who are we engaging with? Who are we rewarding?

Are we maybe reinforcing behaviors that we shouldn't support? If we discount the givers, the people who give to us, what are we saying to them? What are we saying to ourselves? Are we saying that the giving behavior does not deserve acknowledgement? Are we, in effect, taking the givers for granted because we have some unexamined beliefs about our own giving? Do we give without discernment, without seeing the cost involved? Do we give to the detriment of our own self?

These are all questions we need to ask. I don't think it works, giving indiscriminately. Everyone does not have the same intentions or will honor your boundaries. I don't think it works, to focus so much attention on people who are not getting what you are trying to do. We need to focus our attention on achieving a balance between giving and receiving, and pulling in the gifts of giving that are being offered to us, instead of getting hooked into negativity.  

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