How to Effectively Manage “Put Downs” and Criticism

(published in Bonjour France Magazine Nov 17)

Dealing with put downs, insults, and criticism can be a challenging task. Sometimes we are able to shrug it off and move on, other times however,  things can stay with us for much longer.

Just like everyone else, I have been no stranger to being on the receiving end of some negative comments from time to time, and I won’t lie and say that some of them haven’t been harder to get over (and some still get my blood boiling when I think of them). We can’t skip through life without hearing any negative feedback. On the contrary, being challenged on who we are and what we do, can often be a great exercise of self reflection  and personal development. Nevertheless, what we can do, is find ways for us to cope with put downs:

The people who put you down 

People who spend the majority of their time putting down others, are often very insecure in their own lives. They either feel the need to give the impression they are in control or to cover up their own insecurities.

These may sound like excuses to justify someone’s bad behaviour, but by better understanding the kind of person we are dealing with, allows us to gain a clearer perspective when responding to them.

The different forms of put-downs 

Put downs can come in many forms and happen far more often than we realise. Some of them may be slips of the tongue or a misplaced joke, and some of them are put out there with the intend to harm.

“It’s just a joke” Put Downs

People might try out a negative comment or strike, and when we react defensively, hide it behind a joke. Again a useful tactic allowing them to say what they wanted to say, but deflecting off themselves by depicting you as the unreasonable one who can’t take a joke…

“I’m just being honest” Put Downs

The new-found praise for people who ‘tell it like it is’, has taken a slight turn these days for the negative (eg: Trump) giving some people the false illusion that this means they can say whatever lies on their mind. As much as being genuine and honest is an admirable trait, we still need to think before we speak and look at the possible consequences our words may have on others. Just because we think something, doesn’t always mean it needs to heard.

Direct and hurtful Put Downs

These are self explanatory. Put downs like these are comment with the sole purpose of upsetting others. Examples include: “You’ll never amount to anything”, “nobody would love you like that”, guilt tripping etc

Put Downs in Advertising

I think it’s safe to say that most of us who watch commercial TV, open a magazine or walk around stores; have been made to feel like they are too fat/skinny, not fit enough, not lazy enough, our houses/laundry isn’t clean enough and heck… pretty much every time I open my Facebook feed there is some household product or food that is giving me cancer unless I follow these 5 steps..

Advertising is designed to make us want more, make what we have better, and buy things we might not need..

Ways to Respond 

George Carlin quoted “Don’t argue with idiots, they’ll drag you down to their level, and beat you with experience”.  By biting back with an equally hurtful or negative put down, you’re only sinking to their level, which is exactly the outcome they are looking for. Showing that a comment upset you, to a point where retaliation seems like the only option, is exactly what they want. They dig deep for a reaction, and they get one.

Ofcourse that doesn’t mean we need to play the eternal doormat and take the negativity on the chin, but there are other ways we could proactively or effectively respond that might decrease or (if we’re really lucky) eliminate) the put downs.

1. Let it go

That’s right, play it like Elza and channel Disney’s ‘Frozen’ (I have a 4 year old :/)  and try to just “let it goo-oo”. Sometimes things are best worth letting go merely for the fact that they are very heavy. Someone’s comment might deeply hurt you, but will it still be relevant in a year’s time? Is there even truth behind the put-down that could rear it’s ugly head again? No? Then try to walk away from it, you’ll be a better person for it. And as mentioned earlier, the lack of reaction from your part will only show them their negative feedback has no impact on you.

2. Thank them

A very simple ‘thank you for your opinion’ can be a very curt and confident way to show them that their comments were heard, without giving them any indication of how the comments were received. Rather than the expected angry or defensive come-back, they are greeted with a firm ‘thanks’ essentially ending the conversation.

3. Laugh it off

When someone tries to get a rise out of you, laughing could possibly well be the best medicine.

Laughing along with it might feel like you are enabling the behaviour, but reacting strongly to it might motivate them even more to ‘get under your skin’.

It’s not always the solution, sometimes their ‘jokes’ really do hurt your feelings as perhaps some truth could lie beneath them, but when you can laugh it off, it will only help strengthen your own insecurity on the matter as well.

4. Call them out on it and talk

Sometimes, when all else fails, we might actually need to have ‘the talk’. If this person is someone we are required to deal with on a regular basis (colleague, friend, family, etc) the build-up of negative comments could lead to an angry outburst that in the end causes more damage than the initial comments.

You can confront someone without being aggressive or stoop to their level.  Simply and calmly state that you do not appreciate these kind of comments and await their response. In a lot of cases people might not even be aware they are doing it nor realise how significant the impact of their words can be.

If the person retaliates or does not take some form of responsibility for their actions, then at least you know you tried and you can find ways to eliminate them out of your life (no… not kill… just walk away from the connection) or if this is not an option to minimize the exposure to their negativity and to you.

Things to consider 

Of course, not everyone is out to get you and often someone’s negative comment may be perceived far stronger than it’s initial intent. It’s important we ask ourselves the question if that person really is trying to put us down or if we are somehow interpreting it as one. If we had a negative experience with someone in the past, perhaps we might be a bit more sensitive to what they say in the future.

We also need to consider age, culture and background when hearing others give us negative feedback… When living in Hong Kong, pretty much every older Asian woman would have a negative comment about how I dressed my baby, carried her or what I fed her. It took me a while to accept that this is just a cultural thing and it was not worth jumping on every titbit that was thrown my way. I ended up smiling and just walking away or in some cases I ‘thanked them for their opinion’ and left it at that. (of course I was still frustrated, but not enough to start a battle).

‘Being offended’ also seems to be the new rage these days, where we can’t say anything anymore without hurting a little some people’s feelings. So just be mindful of boundaries… in both directions.

Your peace of mind is more important than listening to negative (non-constructive) comments and wondering why they were said in the first place.

If you can’t do anything about it, then find a way to move away from it and let it go

Ofcourse easier said than done, but worth a try …

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We’ve got to stop this “Parent Shaming”

We have got to stop this parent shaming !!!

By a show of hands, who here has been judged, at some point, on their parenting. Now by the same show of hands, who here has judged other parents (*no… you don’t actually have to raise your ha*….. you see what I’m trying to get at here). Call it assessing competition/compatibility or just being plain bitchy, but we’re all guilty of at least thinking it.

Now back in the good old days, judging was done behind each other’s backs and we could just stick to our little groups of people who handled their kids the same way we did. However, fast forward to the Internet age, and on a daily basis my Facebook feed is flooded with propaganda, health articles and ‘new research’ that seems to show me exactly how bad I am doing at this whole parenting thing.

Not only do we have the ‘facts’ (and I use that term oh so lightly), but with that come the many voices that suggest to the rest of us that we’re doing a crappy job. In the age of oversharing on social media and a false sense of anonymity online, people seem to have taken it upon themselves to judge, criticize and sometimes just plain bully others ,without accounting for the consequences their words might bring.

Of course shaming each other seems to be somewhat of a global issue ranging from our religious/political choices, how we view our body image and what foods we prefer to eat (spoiler alert…. it ALL gives you cancer.. apparently.)  With that, I’d like to focus in particular on parent shaming and some of the issues I’ve stumbled upon in my short 3,5 years as a parent of two children (yes, based on the above criteria, that now makes me an expert  😉

1. ‘Fed is best’ (phrase taken from an existing Facebook page)

Both my girls have been bottle fed (*gasp*). They didn’t get any breast milk from the very start (*double gasp*). With the second one we even gave up within the first month (*exists and slams door*). But did you know that I was never able to produce the milk to begin with…. and yes we tried every tip/suggestion/hint we could find or were given… nothing worked. I had the storage… just not the stock. My girls were frustrated, hungry and missed out on bonding with their mom because each feeding session caused more and more stress for all of us (at one point I had a nurse milking me like a cow while another tried to attach my baby to the boob…. very sexy.. and relaxing) In the end, feeding them formula made them just as happy and healthy and we could focus again on the key issue of getting them fed and enjoying the time to bond and love them.

A number of friends have breastfed their babies in public (*gasp*)… they didn’t use a feeding schedule (*double gasp*) and some are even still breastfeeding their toddler (*the crowd goes wild*). But did you know that it makes them feel so much closer to their little ones.. and yes they know formula could do the trick just as much to give them a break…. but they don’t need nor want it. This is their choice and they are happy about that and I don’t see the kids complaining either.

Everyone has their own prerogative on how they feed their children and damnit.. as long as these babies are fed healthy (meaning breast or formula… not whiskey) then they’ll be just fine!

2. Dad’s don’t babysit, they parent

Ok, the breastfeeding can be more relatable to moms (in account of the whole ‘having boobs’ thing) but for too long have I seen the dads be pushed on the bench when it comes to ‘knowing how hard it is to be a parent’. So with this, I would like to do a little shout-out to all the papas out there. Being parents is about being a team, and like any team, everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses that we bring to the field. There is no superhero and the silly side-kick when it comes to parenting (although it’d be fun to start wearing our underwear on the outside).

It bothers me when people refer to daddies ‘babysitting’ to give mom a night out, but I don’t see us paying them at the end of the night and sending them on their jolly way for a good night’s sleep afterwards.

And believe it or not, when mommy’s not there, daddy also knows how not to kill the baby, what lyrics go with ‘Do you want to build a Snowman’ and that ‘snugglebut’ is the only teddy that helps them sleep better.

Just like moms no longer want to be seen as the 1950s housewife who gets excited about the new washing machine, dads no longer want to be seen as the authoritarian parent who couldn’t tell the front or back of a diaper if their life depended on it.

3. What if I told you that our babies slept through the night without using controlled crying nor co-sleeping…

When it comes up that our girls slept through the night from 3/4 months onward, I am often immediately greeted with the “Oh, I could never listen to my baby cry it out”. Often, one style of parenting is joined with a number of assumptions linked to that style and we don’t look at the background of the situation or most importantly…. is the kid happy?

We used somewhat of a schedule when feeding our girls (of course if they were really hungry before their scheduled time… we fed them… duh). But having a bit of a routine for both of them when it came to feeding and bedtime seemed to really work for us and them and of course I also take into account the immense amount of luck we’ve had with good nighttime sleepers… a lot of luck.

In saying that, parents who do decide on controlled crying are not sadists who sit outside their baby’s bedroom door and giggle every time the child cries out … like the rest of us, they are just trying out what works best for everyone involved in finding the right way to get our babies to sleep. We might not always agree on other people’s methods, but everyone is trying to just figure it out as we go..

I also know a number of parents who co-sleep, and even though it’s not something we did ourselves, we seen their kids as happy and healthy mini-humans. Yes, the parents are tired, I can’t think of any parent who isn’t, and no, none of them have gotten squashed just yet.. they’re fine!

Again, as long as the kids are happy it’s ok to find a schedule or a method that works for both the parents and the children. Sleep deprivation is just part of the game… find your own way to make it manageable.

4. If you have found the solution, share, don’t shame

I applaud those parents who have found the light and the only true way to parent their babies effectively. I even more so enjoy their regular social media blasts where they share their newfound enlightenment with the clear assumption that the rest of us are all still in the dark and know nothing or are ignorant and resistant to change.

If you find some interesting articles out there, or new research that could interest others, by all means, do share the love! But don’t shame the rest of us for not knowing this obvious valuable piece of information (even though you just read about it only 2 weeks ago yourself).  I’m glad people have found the light and maybe it is indeed the best way to go… if so, give the rest of us a chance to get their on our own … because your smug attitude will just make we want to rebel even more.

(*side note: not everyone sharing an article on parenting is considered a douche, we’ve got the right to speak our minds (this blog post being case in point)

5.  Don’t make up statistics or facts to prove a point

This is where fictional information on the Internet comes to play, or as our buddy D. Trump calls it ‘fake news’. Some people out there are good at relaying their personal opinions as hard facts. An example, chocking and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is a big worry for all parents, so please don’t tell a parent that their way to put their child to bed can lead to SIDS unless you have the scientific facts to back you up. We have been told that our use of ‘sleep positioners’ (to stop baby from rolling) could lead to SIDS… bullshit. Some of my co-sleeping friends have been told they could squash and choke their baby while they sleep…. bullshit. We’ll always find that one case where a baby did die etc, but don’t use someone’s horrible (and most likely rare) experience as a statistic to support your opinion on.

6. If you feel very strong about something, that’s fine, but does it need to be said?

In saying that, I feel strongly about this, but vaccines do not cause autism (I’m sorry that is just a scientific fact, we really can’t dispute that one can we?). That doesn’t mean I’ll go hunt down the parents that choose not to vaccinate, nor will I ever confront them about it (however hard it can be). The same goes for people who choose not to have medical, life-saving, interventions for their children because of their religion… I admire doctors who have to deal with this on a regular basis because I know I would struggle at keeping my mouth shut. Again though, this is the parents choice and it sucks big time to see this happen no matter how strongly we disagree with it (I know I do… just write a blog about it instead :p )

As usual, these are all just a compilation of my own personal opinions and suggestions (this being a personal blog and all). If I’ve offended some people with what I wrote please know this was not my intention, but it can be seen as such a ‘taboo’ topic these days that it’s hard to know what you should and shouldn’t write. I guess the main objective I’m trying to get at here is to try and live in a community where we support each other, not to make each other feel bad because we do things differently.

We can’t stop from judging… it’s in our nature.. but think before you speak … is it necessary to say out loud or could we just think it to ourselves?

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*(yep, these our kids watching TV… whaaaaaa?! 😉

Making the Heart grow Fonder: 7 Tips for when your partner works Long Distance

(Also posted in BonjourFrance.eu, Nov 2016)

Growing up, I remember my father being away for work quite often and we did not see a whole lot of him during the week. With that said, his weekends were for us and us alone (and maintaining the garden, but he’d put us to work in there together so you know… two birds… one stone).  We didn’t have Skype and mobile phones back then, yet seeing my parents work together like a well-oiled machine really influenced my future relationships.

When I met my husband whilst living in Australia, one of the first things he told me about himself was that he was a French national (although the accent kind of gave it away pretty quickly) and that his work required him to relocate on a regular basis. Our relationship kicked off with a long distance stint before I followed him overseas 14 months later. We traveled in Europe and Asia for his job and settled back in France 2 years ago to plant our feet in the soil and settle down. Nevertheless, his job still has him travelling quite often as I stay behind with our two daughters and the dog.

I certainly am not the only person in this situation, far from it, and have connected with a number of men and women that have spouses working away from home. I thought to share with you some of the tools that we have used over the years and that have proven to be helpful at times.

  1. Communication is key

This is pretty much a given. Communication is vital in all relationships, but it doubles in importance when that same relationship must battle the distance. In today’s tech savvy society, we’re extremely spoiled with all the applications and programs available to us to connect with our loved ones. That doesn’t mean communication over the net is as easy as it seems. Although you miss someone every day, you don’t always have a lot to talk about when you get your 15 minutes on the phone together. Often it can feel a bit forced as you try to sift through the day in your mind and share the highlights. Don’t put too much pressure on having the perfect phone call or a deep and meaningful e-mail, simply touching base can be enough to let each other know you’re thinking of one another.

  1. Prioritize each other

Enjoy the small talk and joking around, but also leave room for the bigger issues.  Let your partner know where you’re at, even if it’s not the fun news of the day. I know some of us hold back as we don’t want to worry our partner while they are away (or vice versa, worry the ones at home).

Call each other on the times you agreed and touching base during the day can also minimize the ‘out of sight out of mind’ pitfall. Send a sweet video of the kids or a romantic picture to let your better half know they’re on your mind. (Side note: Be cautious with the romantic portraits though, you wouldn’t want to accidentally send a sultry image to their boss or have your sexy face pop up on their computer during a presentation).

  1. Learn how to Argue Constructively

Like any relationship, clashes and disagreement happen from time to time. It feels almost artificial to follow what the books say and start an argument calmly with “I feel that…” and “How can we approach this together”.  Take away the face-to-face aspect of the argument and there can be even more room for miscommunication and conflicts. There is nothing wrong with allowing yourselves to have a heated dispute at first, where you throw random arguments at each other and even bring up stupid things from the past (like when they said they would be home at a certain time and strolled in an hour later without a text… the drama :p. Release that frustration, albeit somewhat incoherently. Once all issues have been thrown on the table, that’s when we can calmly focus on the bigger picture and work through the important ones together (some of them might simply go away once you’ve said them out loud).

  1. It goes both ways

After a rough day, you might feel  that you’re doing a lot staying behind and taking care of the family, while you think your partner is ‘sleeping in’ at the hotel and having a nice dinner, but that is not always the case.  While it can be exciting to visit new locations and network, the demands of being away for an extended period can cause both physical and mental exhaustion. A few days away might feel like a nice break, but all the comfy hotel beds in the world don’t make up for missing out on the everyday things at home. Working away, while the  significant other stays behind, can be stressful and taxing for both parties. It’s not a competition and being part of a team requires a little give and take from everyone.

  1. Make the best of it

At first it didn’t bother me too much that my partner was away a lot. Before we had children, I took advantage of the ‘me-time’, and indulged in ‘girly-my-husband-would-rather-have-a-lobotomy-than-watch-these’ movies as well as meet up with friends. After the arrival of our daughters however, we became a bit more house bound and our priorities changed. Nevertheless, as soon as those monkeys are in their bed, I might grab a glass of red and put on the corniest series I can find (I have no shame in admitting I’m currently hooked on the show ‘Pretty Little Liars’… well maybe a little bit ashamed). It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling a certain void while your partner is away, but making the best of a less favorable situation avoids cutting into your couples-time once they are back. (e.g.: file paperwork, catching up with your own friends, or finally do that ‘extreme Spring clean’ you’ve been planning… even though it’s November).

  1. Perspective

Whenever I do feel a bit down in the dumps because, yet again, my husband gets called away for a few weeks, I try to put things in perspective. I have friends in the military who can be away from their partner and kids for 18 months at a time… looking at it that way, our measly 2-3 weeks feel modest. This does not mean that your situation is irrelevant nor that it feels any better being apart. However, reflecting on others’ situation could bring a certain comfort in knowing you’re not the only one doing this and people are rocking the long distance relationships every day! It does take a village to raise a child, so don’t be afraid to accept outside help where offered and build yourself a little support network.

  1. You’re a rock star!

Maintaining a relationship from a distance (any relationship for that matter) is not always easy and needs us to be bold and to hang in there. It’s for those who are willing to spend a lot of time alone; in exchange for a little time with the ones they love. It’s for recognizing a good thing when they see it, even when they may not see it nearly enough”. I read that once somewhere (thank you random late-night Internet searches whilst hubs is overseas).

Long distance relationships (however short or long) are hard, but they are also incredible. If you can communicate with, love and respect each other from a distance, well then you can knock it out of the park when you’re together!

“Distance gives us a reason to love harder” (Anon).

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