Don't Get Too Easily Influenced by Praise or Insults

It's easy to let either praise or insults from others affect you. However, it isn't advisable.
Don't Get Too Easily Influenced by Praise or Insults
Sergio De Dios González

Written and verified by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Last update: 27 January, 2023

As you grew up, you gained independence. Within a few months of being born, you were able to crawl, ten years later you could go to certain places on your own, and in another ten, you left home. It was a gradual process, during which time you amassed a good collection of both compliments and insults. You learned from these and become responsible.

However, no matter how far you advance along the path of independence, you’ll never completely emancipate yourself from the influence of others. This influence can be deliberate, such as when your boss assigns you a task, or it may be more discreet, like when they subtly use compliments to try and reinforce your motivation and behavioral style.

The story of Luis and the pinecone

One day, a little boy named Luis came home from school really upset. His mother, seeing his distress, asked him what was wrong. Luis told her sadly that his classmates had told him that he was useless because he hadn’t known how to solve a problem that his teacher had put on the blackboard.

That weekend, Luis and his mother went out for a walk in the pine forest near their house. She told Luis to pick up a pinecone from the ground and tell it all the bad things that came to his mind. The boy was intrigued. Nevertheless, that Saturday, in between kicking his ball, he picked up a pinecone from the ground and said a lot of rude words to it.

At night, while they had dinner, his mother asked him if he’d talked to the pinecone. Louis told her yes. The next Saturday, his mother told him that he had to pick up the same pinecone, but this time he should say nice things to it. Luis did so and, once again, afterward, his mother quizzed him.

More specifically, this time she asked if he’d noticed any difference between the pinecone on the two Saturdays. The boy told her no.

The mother told him that the same thing happens with people. That praise or insults don’t change who we are. In addition, she told him that we have a fundamental advantage over pinecones. That’s the fact that we can learn.

don't get carried away by praise or insults.

We’re all like Luis

No doubt you’ve had an experience like Luis many times and will continue to do so. That’s because the words of others penetrate you and leave their influence behind. You probably can’t avoid this, but what you can do is consider the messages you receive with the perspective they deserve.

For instance, just because someone says something about you from their own point of view, regardless of whether they want to insult you or not, doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily correct. In fact, before hearing those hurtful words from his schoolmates, Luis certainly didn’t consider himself to be useless, even though he knew he was unable to solve the problem on the blackboard.


Speak to yourself

When you’re faced with these kinds of words, it’s always a good idea to introduce a question into your inner dialogue. Ask yourself why others have the right to set the criteria and not you. Remember, they only spend part of the day with you and are only aware of a small part of what you do or think. Whether you like it or not, this isn’t the case with you, as you’re with yourself, always.

Understand that the person who compliments you today may insult you tomorrow. Furthermore, that the same can happen the other way around. Don’t be like a ship at the mercy of the waves of flattery, nor a leaf at the whim of the wind that blows in the form of an insult.

Extract all the information you want from what they tell you but, as for how you’re defined, you have the last word here. It’s a terrific power to have. Don’t put it in the hands of others and, if you do, only trust it to the people who really love you.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.