I’ll be the first to admit I’m not perfect. I make mistakes, the same as any of us do. We’re only human, after all, and despite our best intentions, we’re bound to make poor choices now and then. What distinguishes us as individuals is how we act when we discover we’ve made a mistake. For me, the answer is simple: It’s all about keeping myself open to feedback that I can get incredibly defensive about and ultimately disregard.
That’s all there is to it! Whether it comes from my employer or spouse, a close relative or dear friend, I welcome constructive criticism, invariably become really, really touchy about it, and then never take anyone’s suggestions to heart.
I’m not the kind of person who just closes himself off to the viewpoints of others. I consider my willingness to listen to another person’s concerns while refusing to accept even the smallest portion of the blame one of my greatest strengths. I’m comfortable enough with myself to hear people out for at least a few seconds before I interrupt, grow increasingly combative, decide I don’t want to hear a word they have to say, and then storm out in a huff before they’ve even finished talking.
That’s just the motto I live by: Reflexively ignore honest critiques and focus intense hatred toward whoever offered them to you.
It’s how I operate at home, at work, at church, and everywhere else. It doesn’t matter if I’m conversing with neighbors, talking to a group of concerned friends and family members, or playing in my Thursday night softball league—communication is vital in every part of life. I want people to feel they can come to me and say what’s on their minds, so I can convince myself their argument is groundless and then contradict them vociferously while failing to give their ideas even a moment of my consideration.
For example, the other day, my coworker Allie brought up how I could be a bit better about finishing my projects on time. As soon as the first critical word left her mouth, I began angrily attempting to justify my lateness in a way that insinuated the fault really lay with her. I subsequently dismissed her observation as biased and self-serving and, most importantly, neglected to alter my work habits in any way.
Sometimes I opt for a subtler approach, like the time my wife Katherine asked if I wouldn’t mind helping out more around the house and I simply ignored her remark. Perhaps she thought I hadn’t heard her, because I never acknowledged the comment until a week had passed and she left some unwashed dishes in the sink, giving me the opportunity to throw her words right back in her face and deride her as a hypocrite. It’s as simple as that.
Try me: If you notice an area in which I could stand to improve and feel like having absolutely zero impact on my behavior, just let me know. I’m all ears when it comes to taking criticism, stewing about it, and then somehow deflecting it back as quickly and snidely as possible while letting my festering resentment take the place of any actual change.
What’s more, I may vilify you as a person and discount your opinion simply because you had the gall to express it. I may hold a grudge for weeks or even months. I may ask, what the fuck do you know about anything, anyway?
It’s this attitude that’s gotten me where I am today.
So feel free to pop in anytime you’d like to incite my rage and bitterness. I’ll be happy to disregard any thoughts you may have.