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New Year’s Resolution: How to disregard criticism by applying the “reasonable man” test

by Shari Graydon

Celebrated American poet and critic, Ezra Pound, in his considered advice to beginning poets offered the following advice:

“Pay no attention to the criticism of men who have never themselves written a notable work.”

But he could have been speaking to female opinionators a century later. So many of the trolls who trash women daring to comment in prominent places “have never themselves written a notable work.”

Earlier this year, when speaking with members of Women in Capital Markets in Toronto, I was reminded of how much more of an obstacle such criticism seems to be to female commentators, relative to their male counterparts. The women with whom I sat agreed that we tend to take negative feedback much harder, and more to heart.

“Guys shrug it off,” said one; “they don’t take it personally.”

This jives with dozens of studies done over the years finding that when women do poorly at a rigged test, they blame themselves, whereas men are more inclined to blame external factors.

Individually and collectively, we need to get over this — because it holds us back. So — inspired by the example of my husband, who is a master of moving beyond small setbacks — I now try to apply my version of the “reasonable man” test.

Here’s a sample of how it works: In response to criticism, the woman asks herself the following:

Would a reasonable man fret over the incoherent criticism from three anonymous trolls, OR would he assume that their ignorance rendered them unfit to weigh in, and focus instead on the seven emails from people who expressed appreciation for the insights offered?

Feedback on the helpfulness of this strategy welcome!