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But they called my baby ugly! (why you need to be disciplined when dealing with criticism)

A couple of days ago, on an email thread amongst friends I felt a familiar emotion. A friend criticized a product I once worked on, and my immediate response was "Ok, so you really don't know what you're talking about."

I'm pretty convinced I was right on the details, but I wasn't objective or analytical in my immediate response. I felt genuinely offended. It was like someone called my baby ugly (btw, I don't have a kid but I'm pretty sure I'd be immediately livid if you did... even if the facts agreed with you. :-)) 

I didn't have time to even process why the person felt that way or had come to the conclusion, my immediate response was defensive and aggressively so.

This is bad - for a few reasons.

First, for me its pretty uncharacteristic.

Second, it doesn't help anyone and only makes both you and the other person feel worse and take the effort to root themselves even more strongly in your contrarian positions.

Third, a overly strong defensive response (especially in person) prevents the person expressing their idea completely. Even if you are convinced the idea is mostly wrong there are often little pieces of feedback that you can glean from it. Yup, this extends even to the idiots that call your baby ugly.

To achieve the best outcome, asking the person to explain themselves further (e.g. 'Can you tell me more?' or even 'Why do you say that?') can lead to either

  • more information for you 
  • or have the person talk them out of their own stance.

Things to remember for the next time around...


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