SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares a thought process you can run through whenever you get offended or hurt by unsolicited feedback.
I enjoy reading your articles on KSL, thank you for your insights on life, they are very helpful. I've had a situation that I'm wondering if you might have some advice on. Last night my in-laws came over, without warning, and said they wanted to talk to us about something. They then expressed concern that our son wasn't getting enough attention and that I needed to spend more time with my son.
We're still very confused and pretty hurt about this criticism. We feel like they overstepped their bounds. They are on business trips every other week and we don’t even see them much anymore. So, I'm not sure how they can think that we don't give our son enough attention. Additionally, I am working full-time and in graduate school, doing the very best I can to spend quality time with my son, so it was especially hard for me to hear them express these feelings. What do you suggest we can do about the situation? How can we heal from the pain this has caused us?
I think they may have overstepped too. If they wanted to give you some feedback or advice, they should have asked permission first. That might have been a more respectful approach. They could have asked if you'd be open to some observations or suggestions around your parenting and given you the chance to say "yes" or "no."
Unsolicited advice can sometimes be construed as an insult. So, it's understandable that you were offended to some degree. The problem, however, is that being offended isn’t going to serve you, your son, or your in-laws in any way.
I’d like to suggest another way to process this situation or any situation where you receive hurtful feedback because this can happen to any one of us.
The next time you receive hurtful feedback or criticism from someone, try following these steps:
— See if there is any merit or something you could learn or improve on. Is the feedback warranted and could you do better in any way? You can always look for a lesson in the experience even if you don’t think it’s accurate.
— Consider the other person's agenda in giving you the feedback.
- Was it their place to give you feedback? Do they have a position of stewardship over you that would give them the right to advise you? Do you feel they're overreaching into your personal business or work? If they are overstepping, understand they might have an agenda that has nothing to do with you specifically.
- What benefit do they get from giving you feedback or criticism?
- Is it possible the other party feels superior in offering feedback or criticism? Is it possible they do this to quiet their own fears of not being good enough?
- In the case mentioned above, does their perceived help for their grandchild mean they are good grandparents? Is it possible they need this validation?
- Are they prone to unsolicited advice and is this just the way they are? Some people are just wired this way. They're quick to see what may be wrong in any situation and share that liberally. They might not see the problem with this behavior because they're honestly just trying to help.
— Decide what response options to the feedback or criticism you have. (This is also a great exercise in any situation to help you figure out how you want to respond and who you want to be.)
- You could take it personally, feel offended, hurt and bothered, or even get angry at the other party. You might hold onto this for years.
- You could take it personally and feel hurt today, then let it go and choose peace, forgiveness and understanding tomorrow. You'd spend one day being upset.
- You could give yourself one hour to be upset and then choose forgiveness.
- You could chalk it up to “just the way they are” and let it roll off.
- You could learn something from this experience and be open to becoming a better parent (or co-worker, friend, person, etc.).
- See this as a life classroom situation that happened to make you more loving, forgiving, wise and strong. You could see this as the universe giving you the chance to practice knowing your true value, and that it can’t change no matter what others think about you.
- You could feel self-pity around how hard you believe you work at something, but it’s never enough (to others).
— Then, decide which option would serve you and your family most. How do you want to feel? What kind of relationship do you want to have with your in-laws? What kind of person do you want to be?
— Read some of my past articles on forgiveness (links below) and work on seeing them as imperfect, struggling, scared students in the classroom of life — just like you. Remember, they have the same intrinsic value as you no matter what they do or say.
— Understand forgiveness becomes easier when you choose to see every experience as one meant to help you grow. If you begin to see them as perfect learning opportunities, then you may begin to see the people involved as your perfect teachers. Those teachers might push your buttons or bring up your fears and weaknesses to the surface so that you can work on them. This can be a painful process, but it's still here to serve you.
Hopefully, this process will help you see your in-laws as well-intentioned and help you let the part you consider insulting to roll off. I see these insults as poison darts — you can choose to let them hit you and hurt you or you can let them bounce off your force field of love, truth and wisdom. I recommend you let them bounce off and don’t suffer from them anymore.
If your in-laws do this kind of thing often, you might want to ask permission to give them some feedback. If they agree and are open, explain that you consider unsolicited feedback as an insult and you would appreciate them asking permission the next time they have some for you.
You can do this.
More on forgiveness:
- Coach Kim: Why forgiveness is hard
- Coach Kim: How to mend fences with family members
- Coach Kim: 10 ways to put the past behind you
- Coach Kim: How to make forgiveness easier
- Coach Kim: The secret to forgiving yourself
Last week's LIFEadvice:
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