Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saturday So What: Peanut Gallery

Doesn't matter what you're doing in life. Whether you're writing, parenting, cooking, or making death defying leaps from planes (just trying to include everyone), somebody has advice on how you can do it better. So today's post is all about what to do with said unsolicited or in rare cases solicited advice.

So what should I do about the peanut gallery?

Whether you're looking for it or not, everybody's got an opinion. And they will tell you whether you want them to or not. I've found this to be particularly true with writing and parenting. Your mom thinks she knows exactly how to make your 5 year old eat their broccoli, and your critique group knows why your main character is a snot. Sometimes all you can hear is one big cacophony. The trick is knowing which voices to listen to, and which to nod politely to and tune out.

 "The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance. It is the illusion of knowledge."
Daniel J. Boorstin 
We can and must learn from those around us otherwise our life and works would never improve. But not every Tom, Dick, and Sally is an expert on what will work in your life. I used to treat everything others said as expert testimony, trying to implement each and every tip and trick. Now I treat the peanut gallery like peanuts. I  get out the good stuff, and then throw the shells away.
  Well, how the heck are you supposed to do that? Here's what works for me.
1. I let down my defenses
2. I hear, not just listen to what the person has to say.
3. I openly consider the value of the information
4. Decide whether or not it is practical or would make an improvement in my situation.
5. Pick out the nuts that have merit
6. And MOST importantly toss out the ones that don't. Throw them away and never think of them again.

#6 is the key for me at least. I have to let go of the words that hurt my feelings. Here's a little example.

I was with my 5 year old in the supermarket when she threw a HUGE fit over not getting a candy bar. So what did I do? I put her in time out, on the spot, right next to the candy aisle. And of course, someone had to tell me what a horrible mother I was to let my child scream and scream. Not so long ago I would have taken those thoughtless words and carried them around with me. They would have weighed down my heart and made me question my own worth as a parent. Today I know better. I followed the steps above, sincerely considering if I had made a bad choice, decided I was doing the right thing for my kid and discipline style, then tossed out the shells of the peanut gallery's advice. After the time out I felt good, and I felt like a good mommy for sticking with the plan I had set out, even though it was embarrassing.

So that's my two cents on the peanut gallery. If you want more from my little corner of the world you can visit my other blog's posts today. Workout Barbie and the List.

Until next time, feel free to suggest your own topics for So What. Next week I will have a special guest, don't miss it!


  1. I like your take on the peanut gallery. I have recently discovered that when people give unsolicited criticism, it usually says a lot more about them than it does about you. I received a critical comment well-veiled as a concern from an acquaintance and it really bugged me until I stepped back and thought, "What would I be thinking to make this kind of a comment?" The answer? I would be aiming to embarrass the person I was saying it to and cause them to question their self-worth, thus boosting my own ego. I know that I'm not that kind of a person. Obviously, the person who said it is that kind of person, which makes me sad, but also helps me to know that I can safely ignore that comment and not let it make me feel bad, because it has nothing to do with me. Sounds like your "well-meaning" parenting critic at the supermarket was that kind of person as well.

    This is also a great tool for handling feedback and criticism- take what you need, ditch the rest. Thanks for this great post! :-)

    1. Your very welcome, and I totally agree. With hurtful comments its especially useful to examine the speakers motives. Some mean well, bu their tact sucks. Others only want to tear you down to lift themselves ups

    2. Good for you Betsy! I did something similar when my now 16 year old grandson was 3-4 years old. He wanted something while we were shopping and I said no. He threw himself down in the middle of the isle and pitched a screaming fit. I looked at him and walked around him leaving him right where he was at. If looks could have killed, I would have died at 47. It didn't take him a minute and he jumped up and straightened himself up.
      My 3 year old granddaughter did a screaming Mimi in the doctor's office because I wouldn't let her run around. I rewarded her with a small smack on her bottom and put her firmly on a chair next to me. The looks I got said it all. I simply told her I didn't care if we were in public, she had to behave and I would spank her if necessary. She nodded and hugged me and behaved herself after that.
      You just can't let people dictate what you feel is right. I didn't feel guilty about either situation.
      Thanks for the reminder on ignoring the peanut gallery.

    3. Thanks for the comment Mary! And good for you for sticking to your guns. It's tough in public right?



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