There are times when we all hear it, words from our friends, family, or even coworkers about ourselves that we sometimes don’t want to hear. Who wants to be told that there are things they should work on? Who wants to hear our problems might be our own fault, or that we aren’t right about something? Often times, these things are told to us in roundabout ways, hidden beneath passive-aggressive comments and remarks, that we know are meant to mean something other than how they come out. Other times, they may be direct, gut-wrenching, blood-boiling statements about ourselves that we are uncomfortable listening to.
Think to a recent conversation you have had – with a family member, friend, boss, stranger, even – that maybe didn’t go the way you intended and maybe you felt as though you were being personally attacked. Maybe someone had brought up a topic that you feel they have no business bringing up (that is an entirely different thing). Or perhaps, you brought up a particular topic or situation or idea and had solicited someone’s thoughts or advice on the matter. Regardless, you ended up on the topic of “X”, and you just did not care for the way “so and so” was speaking to you, or the things that they said. It could have felt they were talking at you, telling you what you should have done, should have said, should have acted, or should do now. You ended the conversation feeling a little frazzled, somewhat hurt, and definitely judged.
Sound like a conversation you can recall easily?
Don’t fret. We all have those from time to time. Here, we’ll talk about the good, the bad and the ugly. The good is that you’re not alone in feeling these things after some conversations and in fact, many of us experience these on a daily basis or every time we speak to “so and so”. The bad is that we don’t realize, but we often put ourselves in those situations or conversations ourselves (even by not removing ourselves from it or ending the conversation, we are participating and allowing it to continue to happen), and the ugly: These are good conversations that can ultimately lead to better versions of ourselves and better relationships with others. Yes – they can – if we can work to be a little less “sensitive”, or at the very least, learn to deal with “tough love” from others.
How to Deal with Tough Love from Others
First things first, if you asked for someone’s advice or opinion or what they thought, etc, then be prepared to hear what they have to say. You can’t expect people to tip-toe around your feelings if you are outwardly asking for their honest feedback. Not to mention, what good would it do anyone if people were not fully honest? How would we grow as people if we didn’t have someone who cared enough or was willing enough to be honest and bring a fresh perspective to things? Those are the kinds of people in our lives that we all need to work on appreciating more.
But secondly, use this as a learning experience to grow and also put yourselves in their shoes too. When you are on the receiving end of these hard-to-hear conversations, don’t take everything personally. Sure, it can feel personal, but the giver of the hard-to-hear advice or opinions may not be communicating what he or she means, very well. So while they have good intentions, it may be coming off a way that had not intended. This is because tough-love is called that for a reason – it’s tough to give. Often times, the person having these conversations with you or being honest with you is having a more difficult time telling you these things than you are listening to it. It’s important to listen to them, but also important to participate in these conversations to better understand their perspective, intent and advice.
And lastly, remember that these people care about you otherwise they wouldn’t be trying to help you – even if it may not seem like they are “helping”. They want you to be happy and do whatever that means you need to do. So although the words may not come out in the best way sometimes (do they always?), they have your back and want to see you succeed in life. Never assume they meant to burn you with that comment, or that they don’t like you because they are criticizing you. Many things can be mistakenly taken out of context, or misconstrued.Think of the people in your life who just tell you what they think you want to hear. Those people do not truly care about you and would not be there for you if/when you really needed it. The people who can say it like it is; those are the people to keep around.
Why Tough Love is so Important
Many of the things we are told by those who love us and know us best are exactly what we need to hear. Often times we are lying to ourselves and are unable to see a situation for how it really is, or solve a problem on our own with our bias lenses. Those who bring to us those criticisms or hard truths about ourselves aren’t usually way off base, if we really think about it. In reality, they are quite often pretty spot on, if we can admit that to ourselves. Without hearing these truths or having someone call us out on our BS, we would forever spiral on our own misery. These wonderful truths can be just the wake up call we need. They force us to take accountability for ourselves and our lives and by realizing that we are accountable, we can realize that we are in control. And when we can realize we are in control, we have the power to make changes!
Recall a few recent conversations in which you received a little tough love from someone else. Did you open your heart and mind and really listen to what your friend had to offer? Were you accepting of their advice or their words, even if you disagreed with some points? Did you have a good, open dialect with them or did you quickly and instinctively become defensive and closed-off, changing the subject or ending the conversation abruptly? The next time you see or catch up with these people or person, give them a hug and thank them. Let them know how truly you value them and how you know they mean well in their intentions. Thank them for always listening to you, even when it’s tough, and for giving you the honest advice and tough-love that you need to hear. Then, don’t stop there – do them and mostly yourself a favor and take accountability for your situations and take action my friend!