How to handle unfair criticism 

I was on Facebook recently, promoting an eBook I had written. I was very, very excited for a number of reasons, particularly because I believed it would make an impact in people’s lives. Here I was, floating in my bubble of euphoria when (you guessed it!) along came one of those nasty comments you dread on social media.

I didn’t know the guy and from how rushed and almost incoherent his words were, I could tell he was really angry. The attack was so unexpected and unjustified that I thought, “Ah ha. Wetin I do this guy nah? I’m only trying to help people!”

Of course, my first instinct was to press DELETE. As in, forget you mate! 🙈 The second was not much better. I really wanted to argue back and set him straight. (Hmm, Olawunmi. Is that how Jesus raised you?)

But to be honest, neither reaction sat well with me. There was a restraint and I decided to listen. So I read his comment again, calmly, without self-defensive glasses on this time. I wanted to see from his perspective, beyond the attack. By re-evaluating, I saw that although his reaction was based on personal experiences that had nothing to do with me, he actually had a point. Hiding behind his caustic words was a genuine concern.

So, I decided to reply. It was a risk for sure. By contacting him, a small part of me felt I was putting myself in a position to be abused again. Nonetheless I chose to:

  • I thanked him for his comment. Genuinely o, without the eye-roll emoticon 🙄 attached. (According to my husband, I’m the “Chief Eye-roller”. Lol.) I even “liked” his Facebook comment!
  • I told him his concerns were valid and that I shared them. (Complete truth. I wasn’t just trying to puff up his ego.)
  • Then very gently, I addressed his misconception and explained that my book was far from what he believed it to be. I even included one of the confessions as an example.
  • I finished by highly recommending the book to him.

Shortly afterwards, his reply hit my inbox. But this time, his tone was much softer. He said he was “happy” I saw his point of view and thanked me taking the time to clarify.

Now here’s the big cherry on top: from reading the comment thread, two people contacted me to ask for the book. Result! 😀

Here’s what I learnt in a nutshell:

  • Pressing “delete” i.e. giving the bad old “silent treatment” or pretending not to care does not make conflict go away. It only causes it to fester until it resurfaces at another time, with greater intensity. That’s when statements like “This is what you ALWAYS do!” are lashed out angrily and you’re left confused and wondering why such overreaction to a “tiny” thing. Em, it’s because the thing has quietly grown and taken root.
  • Responding in a confrontational manner to someone who is already angry only  multiplies the anger. The more you try to aggressively point out a person’s flaw, the more defensive and resentful they get.
  • “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” Proverbs‬ ‭15:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

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