Smack Back Attack, Reprinted from 406 Women Apr/May Magazine Pg 54
Have you ever have one of those days when you are feeling so good about yourself that you are just beaming?
Maybe you have on a new outfit or one that you think you look particularly awesome in. Maybe you posted lots of selfies on Facebook, having such a jammin’ time with your girlfriends. Maybe you just wrote an authentically honest blog, or finished a piece of artwork that you just love, or felt electric on stage giving your presentation. And you’re getting some great feedback, too!
But then someone pops up with the antithesis of warm and fuzzy. Instead, what comes at you is some biting, critical comment or sarcastic retort:
“Well, how much did you spend on that outfit?”
“Does it always have to be about YOU on Facebook? Please!“
“You know, we don’t need to know everything about your life on your blog!”
“Really? People pay you money for that so-called art?”
“So glad you presented my idea!”
Having experienced this myself, and coaching other people through it, quite frankly it is hard to take. It is what I call the Smack-Back-Attack. Often it comes from someone whom you think would be your biggest fan: your sister, best friend, mentor, or parent.
I was working with Sally, who had studied with a healer for over a decade. She respected her mentor and had graduated from working with him. As she started her own practice, she had written a book based on what she had learned. She took well over a year to write her manuscript, and when she showed it to her mentor, he said, “You can’t publish this. It’s my work.”
Sally was shocked. She had written the book because of the respect she had for the work and her mentor. She was crestfallen with his response. She immediately acquiesced, believing her mentor was right. Who was she to write her own interpretation of his work? She wound up apologizing profusely. That is when I got a call from Sally.
Deer in the Headlights
Sally had done what I often do: she had reacted like a deer in headlights. Often, when we get a Smack-Back-Attack, we are speechless. Our brains freeze, unable to respond to the incoming information, especially when it is from someone we think will be a supporter.
I have to admit when it happens to me, I am usually so stunned inside that I simply accept what the person says, and start to believe it. I usually cringe inside and think, “Wow, I guess she’s right. This outfit is a bit much.” Sometimes, I am hit so hard that I actually wind up saying something self-negating like, “Wow, thanks for your feedback. I really appreciate it.” (BTW, I don’t recommend this approach.)
Coming Out of a Fog
It isn’t until after about 24 hours of feeling like a complete loser (or sometimes after weeks or months), that I finally connect with something else inside me that says, “Wait a minute! What I did (wore, said, created) wasn’t so bad. Why am I believing this one person, especially when I heard all this positive feedback from lots of other people?”
It is like I am coming out of a fog and landing back in my own shoes. My view of my world shifts back into place. At this point, I usually wind up connecting to my anger and think of 100 better responses than how I had initially responded. Of course it’s too late. However, it is still fun to think of what I could have said in the safety of my own home.
There are other options, though.
For some who are quicker and more willing to defend than me, there is the Take-That! retort. If the comment is about my outfit, it might go something like, “Well, at least I wouldn’t be caught dead in what you’re wearing.”
This strategy, however, devolves into tit for tat. You may feel good for a split second, but it is like putting gasoline on a fire. It will only grow, and everyone will get burned in the end, saying meaner and meaner things. So I don’t recommend this strategy.
There is another way to respond, which is to say how you feel. It can be as simple as, “Ouch!” or “That hurts!” When we feel attacked we are usually surprised and just react automatically. Being real requires that we pause, connect to our body, notice how we feel, and then be vulnerable and courageous enough to speak up honestly. Here is what Sally did.
Sally went back to her mentor and said, “Wow, I am really surprised that you don’t want me to publish this. I am not claiming it as my own. In the writing I share how I learned it from you. I am simply sharing my interpretation. I think that getting this out to a wider audience may also bring more students to you.”
Her mentor retorted, “You can’t do it. I have it trademarked, and I am working on my own book.”
Sally replied, “Well, I am sad that you feel this way. I hope you do publish your own book. I am still going to publish this, though, because it is based on my experience, my interpretation of our work together. I hope you will see that I am not trying to take anything away from you.”
In the end, Sally ended her close relationship with her mentor and published her book. True, you don’t always have happy endings, but what Sally walked away with was something more than a relationship. She walked away with her self-respect, which is priceless.