How To Respond To Put-Downs

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from Natural Awakenings, March, 2001, pp. 32-33 “Sticks and stones” are not all that hurts. Knowing what put-downs really are, the damage they do to the soul, how they escalate and how to respond to them will erase the notion that “words can never harm me.” What put-downs really are Let me begin by saying what they are not. Put-downs are not “harmless jokes.” The test of the difference between a put-down and a joke is this: Would the jokester be happy if someone he respected used that very same so-called joke on him? Put-downs are not “constructive criticism.” At a construction site, people are building something. To construct is to build. To give the kind of criticism that is constructive, you must see evidence of it helping the receiver to grow. For instance, when my children were little, they took music lessons. When they hit a wrong note after having practiced long and hard, the teacher would say, “I can tell you have been practicing well.” She would then recite, very specifically, five or so things they did well. Then-and only then-she would say, “Now play that [name of note] again for me.” If it was right this time, she would say, “Do you hear the difference from before?” This helped the child feel good about what was done right and turned the mistake into an opportunity to train the ear. In contrast, “You played the wrong note!” is just plain criticism, not constructive and, “You played the wrong note again. I don’t know what’s the matter with you” is a put-down guaranteed for the...
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