3 ways to avoid criticism

From Socrates throughout recorded history and up to the present day, the older generation has complained about the younger one. It’s tough, but it seems like a fun sport for the older generation to criticize their youngsters. Millennials today are taking the right criticism from boomers. Did you know you’re a bunch of lazy, self-styled liberal snowflakes? (And why do you still live with your parents?)

Knowing that things have always been like this is a good start to letting yourself go to the noise, but it’s the way you respond to complaints that will make all the difference.

Here are 3 ways to perfect your manners, charm boomers – and everyone else – with your flawless demeanor, and let the haters gape for no reason to complain.

First, you are good at knowing when to say no, not “24/7” working hours for you looking for a 6-figure income. You want the work-life balance to be in your favor. But is there a way to say “no” that makes everyone happy? Yes there is. When asked to do something outside of your schedule, accept the request and the person who did it. So, give one (and only one) clear reason why the assignment isn’t for you and see if you can find an alternative tip to keep the mood sweet.

Second, to avoid the “me, me, me” label, try asking some important questions and practicing your listening skills. Millennials have been accused of “conversational narcissism” – a tendency to carry a conversation back to themselves and their priorities – so be sure to notice if you did, and be sure to go back to the other person and ask more about them. Balancing a conversation is a skill to practice, but you can’t be accused of self-interest if you’ve intentionally spent time investigating someone else!

Thirdly, you are apparently hypersensitive souls who have none of the British Bulldog spirit that has defeated our enemies in the past. As irritating as it may be, it’s time to offer flattery to those who challenge the way you interact with the world. Anyone who expresses the opinion that their way of doing things is the best way is revealing the need to be recognized and the desire to have their status recognized. Take a breath, smile, and offer some appreciation for their beliefs. Ask them their opinion – try “What do you think of ..?” or ‘How do you feel about …?’ If you do this well enough, you will have a chance to voice your opinions and perhaps even start influencing theirs.

Changing your mind is difficult – and we can’t do it by standing on the other side of the argument and shouting rebuttals. As Stephen Covey said, “Try to understand, before you can be understood.” Good manners are polite ways of behaving: considering others and putting their needs before ours. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.

About the expert

Janie Van Hool is a leading communications expert specializing in leadership development and executive coaching programs. Janie teaches the art of communication, presence and impact to professionals in a wide range of organizations, from the construction industry to investment banking. As the founder and director of VoicePresence (, Janie has worked as a workshop facilitator and 1: 1 coach for more than 20 years, improving communication skills for executives and creating corporate listening cultures. Janie is the acclaimed author of The Listening Shift: Transform Your Organization by Listening to Your People and Helping Your People to Listen to You (Practical Inspiration, 2021). The book explores the power of listening, which often escapes the radar when it comes to business communication. It’s the ultimate guide to learning how to cut noise and listen expertly. The Listening Shift draws on the learning and experiences she gained as a RADA-trained classical actress, singing teacher (she has an MA in Voice Studies), her research in performance psychology at the University of Edinburgh and her years of volunteering as a listener for Samaritans in the UK.

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