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  • Tracy Hooper

How to Respond to Mean Comments



Has someone ever said to you:

  • You have such high standards.

  • You’re way too concerned about your reputation.

  • You’re controlling, stuck up, Type A, or an overachiever.

Hard to believe, those are the real-life, verbal, slings & arrows that one of my female clients has heard from other professional women.


My client grew up in foster care, was mentored by a teacher who saw how smart and determined she was and encouraged her to aim high. She did. She worked full time while putting herself through college and law school. She received awards, accolades and passed the bar at 35.

Today, she’s launching a start-up that supports foster care youth and has been selected for a prestigious “Start Up Accelerator Program” that prepares entrepreneurs to pitch their companies to investors. She’s a star. And she has feelings. When she hears critical comments, she doesn’t lash out or even get defensive. Instead, she tries to pause and remind herself of the Victor Frankl quotation.


“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.”

Still, after honoring that “space,” she asked me, “What can I say to counter those mean comments?”


Here’s what we came up with:


If someone says, “You have such high standards.”

Say this: “Yes, I do. I like excellence in what I’m attached to” or “Having high standards works for my clients and me.”

“You’re way too concerned about your reputation.”

Say this: “I’m proud of my reputation for good work and I am a workhorse to get it done well” or “It’s important to me that I produce work that I’m proud of, and I’m proud of my reputation for good work.”

“You’re controlling, stuck up, Type A, or an overachiever.”

We decided, sometimes you can say, “I’ll consider that…” or ask yourself, “Am I being controlling? Am I acting stuck up?” Or ask other people who know you well and whose opinion you value, “Is that true about me?” Otherwise say this, “I like to plan, organize, and execute with excellence. I owe that to other people and to myself. And it feels great!”

It’s been said, when people criticize you for excelling, it’s because what they see reflected in you is what they are lacking in themselves.

If you get derogatory comments, consider the source, take a breath in that space between the stimulus and response, practice your come-back lines and keep doing your good work.


Thanks for watching.

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