Are You Thin Skinned? Time to Toughen Up!

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Having a positive attitude about who you are, your abilities, and what you can accomplish will help says Marsha Egan

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react ~ Charles R Swindoll

For some of us, comments we hear just “roll off our backs”. For others, those same comments hurt. There are many degrees of this hurt, and many different reasons why an action, inaction, criticism, or comment can send us reeling. Some people truly welcome constructive criticism, and others take it so personally that they are overwhelmed. For some people a negative comment means nothing, and for others it can ruin their day. This is what many people refer to as having a “thin skin.”

In fact, how you handle each interaction can impact whether you create bigger problems for yourself or whether you can reduce or eliminate the emotional response that allows you to move on to get good work done.

There are several things you can do to protect yourself and make your skin thicker. Here are a few:

Don’t take things personally

Many business situations can be challenging. To move things forward in business, tasks, thoughts, and ideas need to be critiqued and challenged. Your ability to separate those types of discussions from a perceived attack on you will help you thicken your skin. Just remember, many times – it is not about you.

Avoid approval seeking

If it is more important to you to gain the approval of the other person than to achieve the result you seek, you could be at risk for more emotional response and hurt. Avoid being blinded by the need to be liked and stay focused on achieving what is right.

Consider the source

Sometimes it is easier for people to critique your work than to do work of their own. While a comment may seem hurtful or critical to you, the reality is that they are knocking you down so they can lift themselves up. As my mother always told me, “Marsha, you’ll never please everyone.” So true.

Understand the other’s frame of mind

Sometimes people are just having a bad day. Sometimes they are looking to impress the boss at your expense. And sometimes they don’t give a hoot about what you think. But also, they might just be on the right track, and you may be the one whose walls are keeping you from understanding their view. By putting yourself in their shoes, you are giving the interaction a better chance of being successful.

Seek clarification

When in a situation that could possibly trigger an emotional response from you, pause to think clearly, and ask unemotional clarifying questions. What was said may not have been intended. You may have misinterpreted the comment.

Understand your biases and triggers

Self-knowledge is a powerful ally in building thicker skin. By knowing what triggers your emotional responses and understanding biases you may have, you can prepare yourself and thicken that skin as a situation evolves.

Think before reacting

It is useful to pause so that you can clearly think about the situation and about your response. By being aware of some of your emotional triggers (we all have them) you can effectively ward off feeling hurt or blurting out a response that you will regret. By delaying your response, you have taken control of the situation.

Give the benefit of the doubt

Many judgments can be made, and those people with thicker skin give the benefit of the doubt. By not assuming the negative, and believing the positive, you have a better chance of diffusing a situation and controlling what could be an unhealthy response.

Believe in yourself

Recognize that you are not going to please everyone. It is important that you remain strong in your values and your positive behaviors towards others. Having a positive attitude about who you are, your abilities, and what you can accomplish will help you form the thick skin that will serve as an advantage to you as you move forward.

Just remember, having thick skin in business and in your personal life is about controlling your response. It is about giving yourself the space to process information before emotionally responding. Yes, it does take work, and emotional energy, but the end result will move you from thin to thick.

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About Author

Marsha Egan

Marsha Egan, CPCU, PCC is CEO of The Egan Group, a Nantucket, Massachusetts-based workplace productivity coaching firm. She is author of Inbox Detox and the Habit of E-mail Excellence. She can be reached at [email protected] or www.MarshaEgan.com. To see Marsha’s blog, visit www.MarshaEgan.com/blog and to listen to her podcast, “Great Points” visit her iTunes channel.

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