Monday, May 20, 2024

OPINION: Resolving your critics

by BRENT REGAN/Common Sense
| January 6, 2023 1:00 AM

The harder you try and the more you succeed, the louder the howl of the critics.

If you want a happier new year, resolve to ignore your critics. I am not talking about recommendations and advice from people you respect and admire, which is advice you should consider. The ones you should ignore are the ones who criticize out of ignorance, bias, jealousy or self-aggrandizement. These are the critics that have nothing constructive to offer.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a phenomenon where a person’s ignorance about a topic causes them to overestimate their own competence and wisdom. This lack of awareness about the depth of their ignorance manifests as license to criticize others.

It is their ignorance that allows them to criticize, but to criticize they must hold some opinion, so where does that opinion come from? They are programmed by the media they consume. In video games there are often characters that are not other players. These Non-Player Characters (NPCs) are programmed by the game designer and can only respond in certain, predetermined ways because of the limited information they can access.

Like NPCs, ignorant critics lack the foundational information that would be the rational basis for their opinion. The way you can tell if a critic is essentially an NPC is to ask them how they arrived at their opinion. Typically you will get a rambling, nonsensical “word salad” answer. If this happens, don’t bother arguing. Just smile and bid them good day.

Bias will drive some to make irrational criticisms. When a critic is presented with an argument that runs counter to their world view the resulting cognitive dissonance will cause them to make irrational assessments. One sure sign that cognitive dissonance is at play is that the critic will respond to your point with “So, what you are saying is…” followed by a misstatement of your point which they then ridicule.

For example if you trigger a critic into cognitive dissonance by saying that we should use the National Guard to secure our borders, the critic may respond with “So, you are saying we should declare war on Mexico. You’re a racist!” If someone begins their criticism with “So” you can usually ignore whatever they say next.

Jealousy motivates some low achievement critics to attempt to tear down success. If they cannot rise to achievement themselves they will attempt to demean those that do achieve. This behavior is typical of beta males who lack the competence to challenge an alpha directly so they will huddle on the sidelines casting aspersions.

Betas can fall into two behavior types; the moral preener and the anonymous troll. The preener will claim the high ground and attempt to judge some attribute of yours as not meeting some imagined standard. Never mind that they have never and likely could never match your level of accomplishment; they still feel justified in pointing out your imagined inadequacies. Betas never confronted their bullies so they see bully behavior as an effective weapon against others. If you are offended by this paragraph, you’re probably a beta.

Anonymous trolls are essentially cowards. They fear facing the consequences of the criticisms they author. If someone won’t stand behind their words you can dismiss whatever they say as noise. I am not referring to people who have a legitimate reason to maintain anonymity, like whistle blowers or those wishing to expose true malfeasance of those in power. I’m talking about the recreational feces slinger. These people are scum, the internet is full of them, and you should ignore their attempts to draw your ire.

Understanding the true reasons for the criticisms you receive helps to create a rational response but the base emotional reaction remains. Humans are driven primarily by instinct and emotion. Survival, reproduction and status weigh heavily on every response. Being accepted in your community is tied to all three instincts. Your sense of self-worth, your ego, relies on this acceptance so criticism can shake your emotional core…if you let it.

The critic’s words tell you far more about them than about you. Ask yourself if you should allow your emotional state to be controlled by those you don’t know or don’t respect. If the answer is no, then don’t. Unfortunately it is an easy decision for the head, but a mighty task for the heart.

If you want to be happier in 2023, resolve to better understand the motivations of your critics. With that understanding comes the realization that their criticisms aren’t really about you, they are about them, and they can be dismissed without concern.

Wishing you a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

It’s just common sense.

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Brent Regan is the chairman of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee.