Growing up, my older sister would always give me advice in disguise. Or as many of you know it: criticism. Whenever she criticized me, I would defend myself and tell her that she was wrong. I did this because I felt like she didn’t understand why I did and said the things I did. She didn’t see things from my point of view. And because she wouldn’t listen to my side of the story, I wouldn’t listen to hers. But as I got older I realized that just because she didn’t try to see things from my point of view didn’t make it right for me to do the same.
So I started listening to her criticism. At first, I didn’t agree with almost anything she had to say. But that was just my natural reaction. I knew there had to be a reason for her criticism, even if I didn’t see it initially see it (see the Logic vs. Emotion post). So whether or not I agreed with what she said, I started to work on improving it. I think the main motivation for me was that if I didn’t improve, it would prove her right. And being stubborn, that was just about the last thing I wanted to have happen.
One of the things my sister loved to point out was that I was “impatient”. Yes, I had to put it in quotes! Anyways, the thing that bothered me about it was she used the word as a noun instead of an adjective. She was saying that I was an impatient person overall, not just impatient in a moment of time. Obviously, I didn’t agree with her. I knew that I wasn’t the most patient person in the world, but the idea of being called an impatient person overall seemed unfair.
So whenever I caught myself being impatient with something, I would remind myself of her criticism. I would then slow down and deal with it with all the patience in the world. After a while, this started to become a habit and I noticed that I had really improved. Of course, I wasn’t going to tell my sister this. I wanted her to see it for herself and realize that she was wrong in the process.
But that’s the funny thing about criticism. The critic loves to point out the faults they see but rarely point out the improvements. And that’s exactly what happened to me. My sister never mentioned anything about me improving. She doesn’t necessarily call me impatient as often as she used to, but every now and then she’ll still make a little comment about me being impatient (even when there’s no reason to do so).
For example, the other day I was talking about how our Dad taught me how to drive a manual transmission. I was telling her how he would get angry every time I stalled and the pressure I felt like I was under. I then told her how I have taught a lot of my friends to drive stick and how I kept calm the whole time. There was a silence between us for about five seconds before out of nowhere she says “I can see where you get you’re impatience from Dad.” Really?
I know for a fact I have improved drastically because I almost never lose my patience anymore. Yet, in my sisters mind I am the same person I was years ago. And until she realizes she needs to update her opinions, she’ll always think that way of me. Thankfully, I learned this lesson a long time ago so what she said didn’t bother me.
The fact is that most people will initially resist the changes you make to yourself. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to show them that you’ve improved, a part of them just won’t accept it at first. It will take some time for them to realize that you have indeed changed, and a little more time after that for them to fully accept those changes. What I’ve learned is that the only thing you can really do in the interim is to wait and be patient. Kind of ironic, isn’t it?