How to Handle People Who Downplay Your Hard Work

A sensitive emotional scenario to navigate is one in which you present something you worked hard on for the public to perceive.

By way of your effort, patience, and time, you’ve created a product, finished a task, or written a masterful piece of poetry. You’ve cut your fingers whilst sanding down the table you made from scratch, you got blisters on your hands from putting up a new fence in your yard, and you downed four cups of coffee whilst writing an important proposal at work.

As you put the final touches on the piece of work you’re about to present to other eyes and perceptions, your confidence is high. It’s high because you know how much effort went into your project. You not only hope, but you expect, others to realize that what you’ve completed, took a lot of effort and hard work.

The More Work You Put Into Something, the Harder It Is to Listen to Critiques

To your surprise and disappointment however, you’ll find that people are often blind to the effort you put into certain pieces of work. The final product, in their mind, will warrant their unimpressed critiques. They’ll attach their attention to the smallest blemishes, without being privy to their context, whilst disregarding the effort you’ve put into the product as a whole.

It becomes easy to act out with emotion during times in which people critique your hard work. The more effort you put into a certain piece of work, the harder it will be to remain unhinged in the face of others criticizing that work. In addition to warning you about these instances above, this article will go on to present a pointer on how to handle these situations.

Their Feedback Contains Projection

Failing to consider the source of anyone’s output sent your way is a strategic blunder. Building an understanding about others’ feedback, commentary, and criticism that you receive requires an appreciation of nuance and context.

Two comments of the same wording can mean different things coming from two unique individuals. One’s history, experiences, and bias seep into their sensory outputs like water into a dry sponge. The thoughts grow into words and actions are infused with flavors they added on subconsciously.

Criticism – much like any other output from an individual – is infused with forces outside the presenting individual’s control. Psychological factors at play can, and often do, involve projection.

Projection plays a seemingly underrated part in all unwarranted and unsolicited criticism delivered. Lazy but malicious critics tend to attribute your actions to be infused with an intent which mimics the intent they’d hold if they were in your position. A criticism which assumes context and intent without properly investigating is one which says more about the critic than the subject.

Their Standards Are Adjusted to Their Personal Capacity and Skill

A critique can unveil just how skilled the critic considers themselves to be in the situation at hand. In seemingly an attempt to escape the discomfort of confronting their own shortcomings, some critics may judge others through a lens which assumes those they judge to have the same shortcomings, beliefs, and knowledge.

Rock-hopping across a stream can unveil someone’s self-perceived inability to make it across. That individual may criticize their hiking buddy for electing to hike the route they’re on. To the partner, hopping on each protruding rock across the stream may not be a big deal. To the critic, revealing themselves to be afraid of trying is more difficult than criticizing someone for putting them in a position to face their fears.

Similar to not possessing the appropriate skill to sympathize with your actions or output, there may be critics who judge your work with their own superior capabilities in mind. They may not understand how difficult something was for you to do, and that same work may come easier to those criticizing from the sidelines.

Keep this quirk in mind when you recognize someone attributing their own skill level and experience to you as they criticize you. This blunder is difficult to control from the critic’s perspective, as their reality is shaped by their own experience, skill level, and knowledge. Simply knowing this can occur, and recognizing it when it does can calm your response to critical remarks.

Questions Which Narrow Down to Your Vulnerabilities

A method used by those seeking to unveil your vulnerabilities is to hook you onto a series of questions you feel obligated to answer that inch closer to insinuating a certain critique. Someone out to prove that you made an unwise purchasing decision may begin their critique with a seemingly objective series of questions about the price of your new car. They will insinuate their position of being against your purchase with each passing question. The line of questioning will go from, “How much?” to, “Isn’t that a bit much?”.

Dealing with a series of questions that critically point to a vulnerability of yours should be driven by your goals in the scenario. If your goal is to not unveil these sly questions to be causing discomfort then answering them straight and daring the critic to express their opinion directly may be an approach to take.

Such lines of questioning seek to use the Socratic method to deliver criticism without delivering it directly. Reversing the same questions to point back at the critic can be a way of stopping that behavior. When sly critics hide behind questions, you’re free to ask those same questions back to those criticizing you. This “how about you?” strategy establishes the expectation of the critic needing to answer the same questions they hope you answer on the way to making their critical point.

“How Would You Do That?” – Contextualizing the Criticism

From the critic’s perspective, the less information they know about the steps taken to complete your piece of work, the easier that work will be to critique. In other words, the more someone knows about the specifics of you busting your back trying to get a certain thing done, the more difficult it would be to find holes in your process. Once the specifics of your work become known, every critique’s validity is subject to the context at hand.

For instance, someone may critique you for not planting your flowers in a straight line along the walkway toward your door. However, if they knew about how much trouble the roots of the nearby tree caused in your attempts to dig, they’d be more understanding of the fact that you weren’t able to dig in certain spots of your yard.

You’d likely have explored many corners and crevices in your journey toward completing a certain project or task.

Though the critiques you hear can be valid, a contextualized account of the work’s processes will help those critics become less adamant about voicing their critiques.

Make it a goal to contextualize the critiques which haven’t taken any context into account.

Doing that doesn’t involve being defensive of the decisions you made toward completing a certain project or task. Grounding others’ critiques within the proper context includes involving those people in the cognitive processes that took place whilst you were doing your work.

Akin to using their momentum against them, you’d take advantage of their inherent interest in your work to dull their critiques. Even though they may not be interested in your work, they’d have placed themselves in a trap by voicing a critique about it.

If you begin to ask them how they would complete a certain step or task only for them to retreat from the conversation, they’d automatically label themselves as an empty critic. Their act of criticizing your work would not be motivated by a desire to understand more about it. Their critiques would thereby be proven to be shallow.

If they take the bait in conversing about the specifics of the work or project which you’ve completed, you’d be able to contextualize every step you took with reason. If the validity of their critiques changes based on your presentation of information which they might’ve missed, then you’d successfully have disarmed their desire to criticize your work.

Remember, an important factor in getting the unimpressed to empathize with the work you’ve put into a certain task, is to not be defensive against their comments or impressions.

All Press Is Good Press

Any interest, whether critique or compliment, can be used to benefit your cause. Interest of any kind is a vital starting ingredient in developing a good public perception about a project you’ve completed, or a task you’ve work diligently on. Though some people’s act of downplaying your achievements may hurt in the moment, know that any interest shown can be smoothly guided toward transforming into a certain level of respect.

The volatile emotional state you’re in as you present your hard work to the world is a dangerous one to not focus on. More often than not, an emotional reaction to the lack of positive feedback toward something you worked hard on will diminish your final product’s image even further.

Think of any interest shown, even if it is negative, as a smoldering piece of coal buried in a pile of hay and sticks that you want to light up in flames. The flame would represent people’s genuine interest in your hard work. Being careful with these smoldering pieces of coal is essential in setting kindling ablaze.

Blowing back hard at your critics in an effort to lessen the temperature of their critiques will blow all the heat away. It will not encourage passersby to investigate, and other critics to feel comfortable in finding interest and voicing their concerns.

You wouldn’t be able to subtly guide the smolder toward a burning interest by being brash in the face of others’ interest – even if that interest is rooted in a negative perspective. Seek to guide the heat generated by those who downplay your work toward lighting up a contextual understanding of your work. Before you know it, someone’s demeaning remarks in an effort to downplay can turn into genuine interest which survives the test of time.

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.