5 Steps to maintaining your cool when faced with stinging criticism

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Yesterday morning, I came home from giving a presentation at Laid Off Camp Chandler. I was feeling so good after spending an hour with a room full of positive and eager participants who wanted to know about starting a business. The event was hosted at Gangplank, and watching all the presenters who had come in on a Saturday morning to volunteer their expertise made me so proud to be a member of this community.

When I pulled up to the house, I noticed a number of signs that were taped to my front door and lamppost. They were written in bold red ink, and contained lots of exclamation points.

Without quoting the entire letter and feeling my blood pressure rise again, suffice it to say that a neighbor was dismayed about the alleged “incessant barking” of our dogs. It was noted that their peace and quiet was “destroyed.” And there were threats (with lots of exclamation points) if we did not address this issue.

This was the second such letter that had been taped to the front on my house. The first was a few months ago, when I experimented  with leaving the dogs outside when I went somewhere. Not realizing how much they would react to birds, cats and sounds, I learned that they did bark loudly. The tone of the first letter was identical to the first: lots of exclamation points and a brusque and confrontational tone.

After the first letter, I felt really bad, and immediately made sure that the dogs were never left outside without supervision. If we ever left the house, we would keep them inside. Arizona homes are built with tremendous insulation, so I assumed that even if they barked, the sound would not be unreasonably loud. We live in a mixed community with families and people of all ages. Our homes are pretty close together, so it is normal to not expect total and complete silence. Given the tone of the first letter, I did not feel it productive to engage in discussion, so I just changed the way we managed our dogs and assumed all would be cool.

Given the barrage of notices pasted across my house yesterday, my assumption was wrong.

The first instinct: Blood boiling defense

Unfortunately, there is no way to stop criticism from finding you, even if you are sitting at home.

These modern days, the most common form of critique is a scathing comment to your blog post, or if your critic really wants to drive the point home, an entire blog post devoted to saying negative things about you.

The gut reaction to stinging criticism for most people most likely mirrored mine yesterday:

  • Rapidly beating heart
  • Shallow breath
  • A string of “#%$^&^&^%#@$#$” choice words in my head as I imagined picking up the phone and giving a piece of my mind
  • If you are really riled up, a fist shaken to the ceiling with clenched teeth and a furrowed brow

The more prudent approach: 4 steps to maintain your cool

Thankfully, I did not pick up the phone and address the issue right away. I knew I was too upset, and needed to do some things that would assure:

  1. I did not lead my conversation with anger, which never ends up well
  2. I fully understood the issue, including where I could be at fault
  3. I saw it in the bigger context of my goals of living in my community: I want to be an engaged, supportive, positive neighbor who contributes to the well-being of everyone around me

Instead, I am in the middle of this 5-Step process to make sure that I fully understand the issue before responding.

Step 1: Gather data

Let’s assume that someone writes a blog post about you, detailing the 5 Ways You Don’t Know What You Are Talking About. Figure out:

-What specific facts are they referring to?
-What is the source of their information?
-Who are they? What is their background, history or expertise?
-Who else does this affect?

In my own investigation process about the barking issue, I will methodically go around to every house in our square block and ask each owner  if they a) can hear our dogs barking from inside b) consider it an annoyance c) desire us to do anything about it. I will also review the homeowner’s policies about pets, as well as local noise ordinances.

Step 2: Evaluate it

I have never, ever, received scathing criticism that did not also include at least one valid point in it. Most has about half a dozen, if you are open to seeing them. When reviewing the data, ask yourself:

-Are any of these points valid?
-Did I say or do anything “wrong”? (“wrong” is a subjective thing, covering “Is it inaccurate?” or “Does it go against my beliefs or ethics?” or “Did I leave out some important things,” etc.)
-What additional information do I need to evaluate my position?

Step 3: Engage expert (aka High Council of Jedi Knights) feedback

There is a reason why I continually encourage people to get a High Council of Jedi Knights. In times like these, you want someone with technical experience, expertise and a solid sense of ethics to give you perspective on what you should do.

The first time I got scathing blog comments, I sent a worried email to Guy Kawasaki. His response was brief but memorable. “Controversy is good,” he said.  This put criticism in a proper perspective for me as a new blogger.

In other, more complex cases, the expert can help you understand if you were at fault, validate if you were right, or simply provide support for a challenging situation.  This is why we all need elders in our life; they have lived through so many challenging situations and now have the vantage point of experience and perspective.

Step 4: Decide if engagement is prudent, and if so, the best way to engage

The most common advice I hear about internet conflict is “ignore the trolls.” But what, exactly, constitutes a troll? If someone is writing clearly offensive things, using curse words or insults, it can be easier to peg in the “troll” category.  If it starts to blow up and get lots of traffic, that can be damaging to your reputation, tracked by Google. But sometimes, someone who might feel equally as passionate and righteous about their point of view as you do about yours can have tremendous value in helping you to grow and get more solid understanding of your field of expertise. In this case, engaging with them could be a wonderful idea, as long as the communication is civil and respectful.

In most cases, I would recommend:

-Do it out of the public eye with an email or a phone call (although the irony is not lost on me that I am writing a public blog post about my issue :))
-Prepare yourself with your data, and if you are afraid of getting angry right away, script the first 30 seconds of your call “Stanley, this is Cherie, I wondered if you might have 10 minutes to discuss an issue with you. I know by your blog post that there is already some heat to our topic, so may I suggest a way to have the conversation so that both of us get the opportunity to express our viewpoints?”
-Always assume that everything is being recorded, and you would be comfortable with it being shown on CNN’s evening newscast.

If you feel it necessary to respond publicly:

Focus on the facts. All eyes will be on your argument, and you can bet your detractors will investigate every fact, person or source you cite.
Do not stoop to insults, or curse words. This will only weaken your argument, and inflame a knee-jerk response.
Apologize for anything that you deem your fault, and clearly state your position.

Step 5: Gather the lessons, drop the resentment

Some of the best personal and professional growth comes from challenging situations. After working through the steps above, ask yourself:

  • What can you learn from this experience?
  • How can it make you a better (person) (professional) (member of your community?)
  • What advice would you give to someone else in a similar situation?
  • What will you do differently in the future to avoid a similar situation?
  • What are you really proud of in how you handled this?

Once the lessons are drawn, check in and notice if you still have some lingering anger, fear or sadness.

Dispose of these emotions in whatever your customary fashion:

-Watch copious amounts of comedies or, in my case, Law & Order
-Read your favorite inspirational quotes
-Call your parents and let them remind you how wonderful you are
-Write the angry/fearful/sad thoughts down on a piece of paper, then set them on fire in a safe location.

Once this is done, LET GO! Carrying resentment forward will cloud your own happiness, and hold you back from taking risks and showing up in full color in your life.

We must learn to do this in our personal and public lives. The level of truly destructive dialogue happening in my country right now troubles me deeply.

We have it in us to disagree openly, and respectfully. Best of luck!

I have no idea what the direct correlation is, but ever since the flyer issue came upon my front door yesterday, the dogs have been unusually quiet. I think they want to be conscientious and positive members of my community as much as I do. 🙂

I am fully confident that we will come to a mutually beneficial solution, since I know my neighbors and I are all reasonable people who desire harmony in our community. I will update you on the outcome!

Shoki, one of our accused barking offenders, who had this response while I was writing this post 🙂

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54 Responses to “5 Steps to maintaining your cool when faced with stinging criticism”

  1. […] 5 Steps to Maintaining Your Cool When Faced with Stinging Criticisim @ Escape from Cubicle Nation […]

  2. Gday, can everyone suggest a way to stop this site from rendering a javascript error in IE9? Thanks

  3. […] I read this blog post about dealing with criticism by Pamela Slim on her blog, Escape From Cubicle Nation, I knowingly […]

  4. […] I read this blog post about dealing with criticism by Pamela Slim on her blog, Escape From Cubicle Nation, I knowingly […]

  5. […] I read this blog post about dealing with criticism by Pamela Slim on her blog, Escape From Cubicle Nation, I knowingly […]

  6. […] I read this blog post about dealing with criticism by Pamela Slim on her blog, Escape From Cubicle Nation, I knowingly […]

  7. Bobby says:

    Great Post, Pam. I wish I would’ve ready your blog 10 years ago. LOL. I also find that understanding and accepting that, if we want to be successful and advance in our careers and lives, there will be more and more criticism. The higher you go, the more people will judge you. The more you put yourself out there, the more vulnerable you will become. But it is a lot better than having no enemies, doubter, or naysayer; but also having no money. Great post, Pam.

  8. […] Five Steps To Maintaining Your Cool – Great article about being calm in the face of criticism.  I often make the mistake of responding too hastily and it’s something I’ve worked on in the past few years. […]

  9. Robbie says:

    The thing I like most, is how this process can be applied to many situations.

  10. Sheila says:

    Eer I meant my DOGS were doing the natural thing and that is quite good! 😉

  11. Sheila says:

    I have dogs and sometimes others have told me that they were barking a lot when I was not home. Strange I thought – they are generally quiet, and well trained.
    A little research pointed me to some facts…. More than once I have found that my dog and dogs were simply trying to protect me and my property – once a domestic helper was taking things from my home (amazingly he simply admitted to it when confronted and brought some of the stuff back!!), another time it was to alert me to a situation, and third time, I think it was simply becos some neighbors kids were playing close to my window with a ball, and trying to peer into my home! So they were doing the natural thing and that is quite good.
    The question on how to deal with neighbours starts with, I believe, with firstly you yourself being a little tolerant, but letting it be known that tolerance was given and tolerance expected.
    Reasonableness from both parties of course is to be expected.

  12. Carrie says:

    I just love this post. And I admire you that your first reaction is anger. Mine is to cry. 🙂

  13. entrpreneur says:

    I definitely will forward this to my buddy we were just talking about this this week!

  14. Patricia says:

    Hi Pam, As a fellow dog lover and past owner I cannot help but reply to the dog situation. This may be unasked for advice but it works: get a good (and I underline good) dog trainner for a few sessions of intervention. Dogs can be trained. Even cats can be trained (I have seen cats trained to use the toilet in the house!) Professional dog people know how to help and it is such a relief when some unwanted behaviours – barking, jumping up, chewing, getting on the furniture are dealt with. I have seen it change lives and relationships.
    I know that’s not what the post is about but couldn’t imagine the situation continuing. Thanks for the process. It is soooo good just to be concious and remember out options – kind of like doing homework to be prepared for the exam! 😉

  15. Ah I used to have some process like this. Maybe not detailed and consciously, but it was a long way from hearing something to being done with it and moving on. Now I’ve boiled it down to just one step: don’t care, and I like it a lot better, haha. Perhaps I’m a jerk though.

  16. Mark W. Schumann says:

    Dana, that would be a really good example of what I meant when I said sometimes there really isn’t any valid criticism at all and the person is just jacking with you.

    Sounds like this guy is just a boundary-testing creep.

  17. […] of criticism in our lives.  I appreciate Pamela Slim’s thoughtful take on a process for coping with criticism in a constructive, healthy […]

  18. […] 5 steps to maintaining your cool when faced with stinging criticism – Escape from Cubicle Nation […]

  19. Some really good advice here. I’ve seen far too many PR disasters erupt because someone’s lost their temper when faced with a scathing comment. The problem is that it’s just so easy!

  20. Dana Boyle says:

    Great post that needs to be printed for future use, Pam!

    When I had this experience with a neighbor who got very out of line about my dogs at my former house, I did go poll my neighbors and every single one of the other neighbors on the block said either, “I never hear your dogs,” or “I hear them once in a while, and when I look, they are barking for a good reason, like someone is at your door or something. Dogs bark. It’s part of living in a vibrant neighborhood. It doesn’t bother us.”

    I decided then that the neighbor who was complaining must have been hearing someone else’s dogs and blaming it on my dogs. His house was not even next to mine.

    I also armed myself with what I was doing right. They had licenses, shots, etc. They were well taken care of. I was a responsible dog owner.

    I meant to discuss it calmly with him after all that, but one night I caught him climbing my fence when my dogs were out back, and I am not kidding you when I say I grabbed a shovel and told him if he ever came in my yard again in a way that threatened me, I would use the shovel. I was well within my rights, because if he was coming for a good reason, he’d have used the gate and knocked on my door. He was clearly up to something threatening and dangerous.

    I never heard from him again.

  21. Ali Davies says:

    Crackin’ points Pam.

    In these sorts of situations and dealing with setbacks in general, I try to live by this simple mantra:

    Learn the lesson. Apply the learning. Move on.

    Helps to keep me focused on outcome and solution.

    In relation to the dog stuff, do you ever what Ceasar Milan aka “The Dog Whisperer”. I mention him, not just because he popped into my mind as you mentioned your dogs and there is a lot to learn from him about dog psychology, but also because a lot of his lessons apply to life and out way of being. Not to mention he gives off a wonderful energy and is pretty scrummy too!!!

  22. Carol Bono says:

    Pam, Such a beautiful, peaceful dog and an all too common story. Presumably your other dogs are not chihuahuas, nor does the postal carrier make a close approach to your property. Otherwise you would find the barking of dogs requires constant vigilance and a supply of tylenol. My two dogs alert me and everyone else in the neighborhood if a squirrel so much as sits on a tree limb eating a nut. There is nothing so complex in human relationships that a dog cannot manage to get it posted on your front door.

  23. Cliff says:

    This article really spoke to me and gave great guidance. It is very difficult to capture the emotions and thoughts in these situations. You captured them perfectly and are clearly a gifted writer. I think this article did some good stuff.

  24. Stephen S. says:

    A soft answer turneth away wrath;
    But a grievous word stirreth up anger. Prov. 15:1

  25. Clay Hebert says:

    Shoki looks exactly like Jedi, our black lab while I was growing up. Great post, Pam.

  26. BigRockr says:

    Well?……C’mon Pamela you can’t put a story out there like that and not let us know how it turned out! Spill it girl! We can all learn from it.

  27. Azie G says:

    Ms Pam,

    Your reflections about this issue stands fine, but not entire. You see there is something about written or said words which make them carry worth, and to endure. Your choice of example (a pet) is too ordinary to make any direct and derived conclusions of any real enduring worth.

    I come to you now and say: Hi Ms Pam, I really like your handling that tough challenge in a cool fashion; what’s your secret? Then you will like to tell me that you learned that from somebody’s dog’s lesson or story; and you think I would like to hear that story and commit it to memory? I will not, unless I am willing to take a matter of pet as a matter-of-fact.

    Two things I like to suggest: You change the title to reflect that it is centered on dog-conflicts resolution, which will make it pointedly useful to pet owners; or you re-write the post using more significant illustration. The latter choice gives you better opportunity to serve humanity, but evidently involves more work; and if it also gives you better recognition, I think you shall have deserved it. If A. Einstein concentrated his effort on studying the curvature of light rays over coffee in a mug, you would have no real reason to respect him; but consider relativity, and you will respect his even his memory.

    And if you do the suggested “conflict relativity” before going to engage your neighbor(s)in real negotiations, you will at least emerge an authority in this important field.

    Thank You.

  28. Karla says:

    Great post! (And I, for one, I would never complain about your dogs :-p)

    In the future, if you have any tips on letting go, I’d love to hear it… sometimes even after the anger has subsided, it can come back and knock you off-course.

  29. SC says:

    I learned the lesson of not immediately reacting to something that annoyed me in a painful way. I reacted to something that seemed important at the time, but Later, when I talked to the person I had attacked verbally, it turned out that I had misinterpreted the situation. This happened more than 20 years ago, but I still feel ashamed of myself. Not again! From that time on, I wait several hours before sending that cutting email, or saying that snarky thing.

  30. […] 4 Steps to Maintaining Your Cool When Faced with Stinging Criticism. Some words of wisdom from Pam Slim. […]

  31. Denise Green says:

    Your tip to assume your conversation was being recorded was surprising. And what a great tip to keep me on best behavior. From a fellow mutt lover, Denise

  32. jami says:

    I loved the example you use – dogs. But this can go for many other noises as well. My neighbor plays guitar after 10pm sometimes, and when I need to get myself or my kids to sleep before this time it was really difficult. That is until we had a little chat over the fence. Really. There was a baby bird he was trying to save from his cats and he was positive I could help it. After this it took another six months or more for another chat. This time I mentioned the playing as part of conversation. The Look on his face! He had no idea it was bothersome or loud. Now when I hear him play I know it is just my sweet introverted neighbor soothing his soul.

    I have also been on the other side of this equation with city chickens. It is when the hens have a hormonal imbalance or are “late bloomers” to tell if they are roosters or not is when the problem begins. Since I work at home the dang bird was driving ME nuts with the not quite crowing, and a different next door neighbor. This neighbor did not call, come to the door, and I have NEVER had a single conversation with them even when going to there door and knocking. They would not answer the door. And it was this neighbor that complained to the city about the chickens. The chickens (bantam buff orpington’s) were taken to a friends farm just outside of town.

    There are so many ways to handle these situations, but keeping ones cool and seeing another’s humanity seem to be the best options. Perhaps the signs in red with exclamations points were a practical joke…? Actually sounds like something a teen would do. Or acknowledge their frustration and involve them in a solution? Whatever pans out I hope you let us all know!

  33. Pam,

    Loved the post and the comments. I must confess I received your post from a follower, Nancy Collamer. She passed it along to me because this is what I do for a living.

    I am an Animal Conflict Resolver. I enable people, in conflict over animals, to have the discussion you were ruminating about above in a venue where both are safe and feel heard. If one avoids having the conversation, the old ostrich in the sand approach, it can lead to more serious confrontations down the road (as you can attest from the second barrage of explicative notes on your property.)

    In my former life I litigated these animal conflict events in cases including divorce, neighbors, condo/co-op situations, kennel groomer, rescue organizations and vet disagreements. These were my bread and butter!

    However, no one ever wins these kinds of litigation, except the attorney. It costs a fortune, it takes forever and you can no longer talk to the person you were in conflict with. I decided to create my own niche practice to provide the middle ground for people in conflict over animals.

    First, I give them tools to use on their own, similar to the outline you gave above. You can check out my YouTube video, Nipped in the Bud, Not in the Butt, on my web site.

    If that fails, I provide the mediation venue for people in conflict over an animal, in which they can have this discussion and put the conflict behind them. Litigation of conflicts between people involving animals are laughed out of court. Let me tell you, to the people involved in the conflict, they are no laughing matter.

    Here in NY we just had a suicide/euthanasia of a soap opera actor and his dog. The condo-coop in which they lived went pit bull free. His dog was grandfathered in because she was there before the edict. His life became so untenable due to tenant discrimination and angry statements to him about his dog, he decided to put his healthy dog to sleep and then put himself to sleep. Had the Condo/Coop board availed themselves of mediation of this tenant situation who knows what would have happened.

    People in conflict over animals, both the owner and the annoyed neighbor, are emotional, combative and determined to have their point understood and respected. Mediation provides that venue for all and enables you to save time and money from the alternative, litigation, while retaining a relationship between the parties after the mediation concludes.

    If you cannot bring yourself to speak to your neighbor and you are still fuming about an event that occurred days/weeks/months/years ago, try using mediation as a venue to have that much needed discussion. A good mediator will provide the space where you can be heard, respected and understood. From there resolutions often follow.

    Great post of such a clear example of what a party goes thorough after receiving a note on their door about their ‘barking dog’.

    Would love to connect and chat more about what I do.

    Call me if you need me. I work as an animal conflict mediator nationwide because I believe it is the better way to solve animal conflicts between people.

  34. Amy Ramsey says:

    This is exactly what I needed to read today. I just got off the phone with my manager who shared with me feedback from another person in the organization. The feedback was shocking and really hurt! I just need to swallow my pride and move forward. But, man this hurts and is hard. Definitely going to utilize all the steps mentioned above to forget!


  35. Mark W. Schumann says:

    On your point #2, Pam, you say:

    I have never, ever, received scathing criticism that did not also include at least one valid point in it.

    Elaborating just a little on my Twitter reply to this, I think the thing to watch out for is those times when, actually no, the criticism isn’t valid at all and someone is simply messing with you.

    It’s a common thing in dysfunctional and abusive relationships, at home or at work.

    At those times, the message in the criticism itself is bogus. The real message is, “This person is jacking me.”

    On the other hand: a good friend recently got a way long kick-your-ass email that purported to be helpful criticism and did contain several valid points. But it was pretty easy to see that the real motivation was to make the writer feel useful and grown-up, not so much to help my friend make better choices.

    In that case, my friend was massively pissed off but also saw the legitimate issues raised in the email. She pulled a literal lesson from the content of that email but also a meta-lesson of “this guy doesn’t respect me.” Both were valuable.

  36. a strong reaction to criticism has to do with ego. Once you discover the ego and how it works, you can calmly respond to criticism, or people’s out bursts of anger. Most of us are unconscious throughout the day by thinking about the past, the future, regrets, should of done that, should have done this. With the distractions of e-mail, text message, phone calls, tweets, FB status posts, it rare for most to be in the present moment. When a person acts in the present moment it rarely comes from anger or frustration, or feeling criticized.

    Lets say you are 30 years old, and you live till 80. If you are only fully present for two hours a day the rest of your life you have only lived just over 6 years.

    Ask yourself everyday all day, am I awake, am I present.

    • Myke says:

      I love this comment! It’s so true, after reading the 6 Pillars of Self Esteem (Must read!) I was able to develop a deeper understanding about how my ego could work for me and also against me!

  37. Jennifer Lyle says:

    I just have to weigh in on this, Pam. It’s a complete coincidence that I even saw this post today of all days.

    Our next door neighbor has an elderly lab that barks often through the night and into the morning. I don’t blame the dog, I blame the neighbor because it’s in a backyard pen 12 months a year, with next to no attention, & there has been more than one occasion that I’ve filled its empty water bowl.

    This morning was one of the barking nights/mornings & I expressed my frustration to my husband. The old me would have screamed & yelled, ranted & raved and probably blown up at the neighbor. The new me doesn’t do that, but is still scared to have even a civil & calm face-to-face direct criticism of this neighbor. Unfortunately, the only suggestions that I have are to find the dog a new home (difficult, given its age & poor care-taking) or euthanasia (which makes me weep.)The jury is still out as to what, if any, action I will take.

    On the flip side, I know that my small dog barks when we leave the house. How long does that continue? I don’t know & am afraid to find out – so we’re all in this together and that’s a large part of your wonderful, wonderful message.

    I plan to share this on FB and send it to others. Thank you.

  38. Megan Everett says:

    I love how you take a deep breath, step back to get perspective, and open yourself to really listen to “all sides,” even in challenging situations, Pam! I have a LONGGGG fuse, but when it runs out it is really, really hard for me to take that deep breath!

    Although I love dogs, the incessant yapping of two wannabee killer dogs down the street last month was really getting on my nerves. I didn’t take action but I let it destroy my peace. I found myself aggressively disliking them and wishing for a permanent “solution.”

    When my boyfriend’s response was to laugh in delight each time — because they’re so tiny and cute and mop-like and they so obviously think they’re killers — I allowed it to teach me that I needed to look at why I was overreacting.

    Taking steps to relax and get more balance in my life “solved” the “problem” of the barking dogs. I’m sure they haven’t stopped yapping, but it no longer disturbs me. I do try to remember when people dump on me that I have no idea what they’re dealing with in their own lives.

    I’m printing out your “roadmap:” You outlined some really constructive steps that go beyond coping to build bridges. Nice!

  39. fas says:

    Forget everything, learn the mistake and criticism and improve.

  40. Elizabeth T-C says:

    Thank you for this post.It is very much needed in todays environment with the increase in noise levels.

    It is very difficult with dogs being home alone. They are after all on guard once you leave. It is their job and they are proud of it. They take care of the house ad territory often with a dilligence only applied to unruly slippers.

    An old colleague of mine at one point had that ptoblem. It was a couple of small dogs turning into wild animals once they left the house. Being near a school some boys took great delight in teasing the dogs when they passed the house. They utilised a sonic device that emitted a high pitch only dogs would hear. It does seem cruel when hearing about how works but it is easier than making the dog defy nature and not guard the house. Better you give it a try than having your neighbour buy one….

  41. Marilyn says:

    I remember a couple years ago a wise friend of mine named Pam patted my hand after a particularly nasty email response to my newsletter. You said “Let it go.” and it worked. 🙂

    My next door neighbor has three dogs and two parrots. They all bark constantly, even the parrots. Even when they are indoors I can still hear them.We even got one of those “booop” sonic “No-Bark” things, which sort of helped… though now the parrots make a “boooop” noise, in addition to barking. But, we’ve never left red letter notes on our neighbor’s door.

    One thing that helps me is to think, “What would the mature, grownup response be if someone had barking dogs?” Red letter threats = bad. A nice, polite chat telling your neighbor = good. You didn’t know that your dogs were barking. Your neighbor should have had the courtesy to just tell you.

    Sending good thoughts your way, M

  42. Shel says:

    I really enjoyed your blog, but am confused by the title which says 4 steps & the article that lists 5 steps. ?

    • Pamela says:

      Hah! Good catch. I started with 4, but must have added a step and forgot to update the title.

      Changed now! 🙂

  43. Gwen Navarrete says:

    “Carrying resentment forward will cloud your own happiness, and hold you back from taking risks and showing up in full color in your life.

    We must learn to do this in our personal and public lives. The level of truly destructive dialogue happening in my country right now troubles me deeply.”

    Well said! I am sharing this post, it is a must-read (all your blog posts are must-reads, but this one is especially good). Thanks, Pam!

  44. Susan says:

    Pam, I love this post!! Excellent tips and strategies that I wish I’d had years ago when beginning my career!

  45. Yolanda says:

    I’ve had a similar situation with barking dogs, someone elses. And realized after doing the research that there was very little I could do. Yeah, I supposed I’d love to leave a note on their door 🙂 but the reality is this… I adjusted. The dogs aren’t to blame, dogs are dogs. When they bark I close the door, turn up the music and don’t let mine out to participate. I adjust.

    Of course you know my response 🙂 ignore them if they could do something they would have. I’m sorry but someone with that much anger and animosity is going to be very hard to reason with.

    However, in most situations, where reasonable people are involved, your above list is an excellent strategy!

  46. Great post Pam. I can tell you’re laser focusing your energy/anger to walk away from this with a positive outcome. I admire you. Being a person who has bullied, trolled, cursed and screamed online and of at what I consider morons and idiots, I feel shame for ever having lost control in my life—which I have done, including angry tweets at Guy (undeserved probably, but I linked him with the prime evil in the universe at the time—Apple computer who refused to replace my MacBook after the 4th hard drive exploded. Guy, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry. I was an ass). Anyway, it happens. What helped me was sitting down and playing, “What if?” as in, “What if she or someone in the home is terminally ill and the barking is painful and intrusive in a way it might not for a healthy person?” What if she/he is so angry at me they can’t stand it, but they don’t know how to pick up the phone or have a conversation either? What if my neighbor has a point? The dogs really are annoying? How would I act if our situation was reversed? What if they are really nice people and this comes between us being true neighbors? What if this is my fault because I never really introduced myself until now? What if they work nights and sleep days and my dogs are keeping them awake? What if there’s something going on that I can’t even guess at? By the time I put myself in someone else’s shoes I feel better about talking to them and a little bit ashamed of myself. I go off a lot so I get a lot of practice. This really, really works and it helps me be more open to better solutions that involve the other person, not just me. Good luck with this! If it doesn’t work out there are some great books and products for stopping the barking painlessly. Dogs bark for a reason. You just have to change their reasons….

    • Pamela Slim says:

      I love your follow up questions Becky! Those are wonderful.

      It reminds me of a time when I saw a woman elbow her way off the plane in what I perceived to be an insensitive manner. When I got to the gate, I saw her sprinting to the restroom.

      We have all said and done things that we wish we could change, which is part of my point in writing this post. Had I not taken some time to think things through, I could have also reacted in an insensitive manner.

      I often like to picture the face of a child (or pet! 🙂 of someone who I am disagreeing with. What would I say to them if their child was present? I would NEVER call them a name, or say they were “stupid,” or even worse. When we insult someone, we do impact their whole family.

      I am ALL for differing viewpoints and healthy discussion. I just get really bummed out when we do not show respect for each other on a human level.

      I would love info on the barking too! Part of my research will be to video tape them when I am not at home, to see if truly they are “incessant.” I have been here the last 4 hours and they have barked once. 🙂

      • I just admire your self control! Maybe being a parent helps develop those muscles! I can’t even count the times I’ve humiliated myself, acted like a bull in a china shop or said something cruel—all the time while saying to myself, “Shut up! Shut up!” I’m working on controlling my tongue and this was such a timely post. It’s easier to control in person for sure. That I’m so much better with, but online? Ha!! Have sharp, wicked, nasty sarcasm and will sling…not a good thing, but I’m a work in progress. Having good role models and advice like this helps so much. Thank you for posting, for being so authentic, honest and human. THAT is what we all love most about you. YOU are REAL!!

  47. Besides engaging the experts, I also like to ask peers if they have ever been in a similar situation and what they did to solve it. I focus on the solution part, and I’m careful not to do it just to whine.

    Of course, this is exactly what you are doing in this post— just thought I’d call it out for emphasis.

    • Pamela Slim says:

      So true Christine! I should have called that out too. Peers are awesome for support and feedback.

    • Great approach Christine! By asking this question, I frequently discover that I am not the only one enduring the increased pressure.

      In the movie “You’ve got mail”, Tom Hanks plays a bookstore mogul who has an online relationship with the owner of a small bookstore (played by Meg Ryan), who is feeling the pinch from the new mega bookstore that Tom Hank’s character is building just a block away from the small bookstore.

      Meg Ryan’s character knows that she is fighting a losing battle to maintain her business as her customers flock to the new megastore. In their email repartee, Tom Hanks frequently quotes lines from the Godfather movies. Most frequently quoted is the line “it’s not personal, it’s business”.

      Such is the case when you have an abusive boss. Like a prize fighter, when you are being crowded, always look for an opening and possible counterpunch.

      Best methods: observe, analyze and act. Sometimes it is useful to know that many bosses are insecure about the effectiveness of their staff. Find ways to prove him wrong. Do your job and ignore the drama.

      Circulate resumes and network with your former coworkers. Often these are the best leads, since their bosses are frequently looking for talented employees. If your former coworkers are viewed as being highly skilled, then a word from them can bring you into the fold.