Heard the adage “if you can’t say anything nice say nothing at all”?

Pretty much the way my family worked, at least in public and I had no idea how grateful to be for that education until I started dog sports. I know inappropriate nosy comments happened at horse shows I attended as a youth but somehow I obliviously sailed through most of them. That was  probably a good thing as showing horse was very stressful at times for me. It would not have helped my zen approach to have been worrying about the things people said. As an instructor, adult and friend I am much more aware of them now. I care less personally, and hear more.

When I first started agiliting (why isn’t that a “real word yet?) I heard comments in passing but knowing no one I assumed people were asking for feedback or good friends with the people offering thoughts out loud. Sometimes I’d drive home and reflect on a comment that seemed mean spirited rather than constructive and what the person’s motivation for making it might be. Rarely could I figure it out. So I went with trying to be helpful.

As I taught more and worked with more diverse groups of people, developing a little more self confidence and assurance, I developed a mantra for dealing with difficult people. I embraced the concept “it’s not personal”. Sitting at hospital bedside’s advocating HARD for loved ones I was careful to separate the person in front of me from my frustration. Doing so forced me to realize all the times people likely don’t acknowledge it’s not personal.  Issues in other people aren’t about me. They are about them. I mean that with no attempt to deny responsibility for errors. In fact now I find it easier to accept responsibility for errors I make. My mistakes aren’t personal; nor an attempt to sabotage anyone. The reverse is likely also often true.

However, and it’s a BIG however, the nasty snarky comments that are not my issue, nor personal (they are often freely dispensed over the course of a day) are still thoughtless and often cruel. They are disrespectful and  hurtful and often cause pain.

As a person who may want to help someone THINK before you speak.

If it isn’t any  (or even better ALL) of the above. Stop. Re-think. Re-phrase. Or walk away.

If you are on the receiving end of a comment you have a few choices  Some apply best if you know likely “hot zones” others work anytime anywhere. Test em. Comment if you have other great strategies to try.

  • ignore the comments (so easy to say and hard to do)
  • plug in earphones so you can be occupied
  • solicit a friend to chat to you if you pass through a “hot spot” of comments
  • line up a distraction for them before you enter the ring – have someone distract them during or after your run 
  • pre-empt them – that is if you get asked “what did you think?” answer ” I really loved X Y and Z” 
  • try honesty “I’d rather debrief with my coach – thanks” ” I need time to process” “I suspect my goals for the run were different than yours would be” 
  • put yourself in their shoes – what might their motivation be?

You got this. I know it.