Are You Suffering from the Malady of Thin-skinitis?

Robert Terson

In Selling Fearlessly I said, “A salesperson must have skin as thick as a rhinoceros’s because prospects can be downright insulting at times. It should go in one ear and out the other. You’re there to make a sale, that’s all that matters; indulge in anything peripheral to that sacred purpose and you’re being self-destructive.”

Actually, it isn’t just sales that calls for a thick skin; a thick skin and an open-minded attitude to all facets of life, especially well-intentioned constructive criticism, will take you a long way towards the success you desire.

Alas, most of us suffer from what I call thin-skinitis: we’re so enthralled with ourselves—our looks, personalities, work (that goes double for our creations, such as a book or blog post), you name it—that any form of criticism is a personal repudiation of whom we are, completely unacceptable—anathema. Someone can say ten positive things about us, but all we tend to concentrate on is the one “negative” (if it’s presented constructively, designed to help us, it’s not necessarily a negative, folks!) that not only pisses us off, it rips into our gut like a knife slicing into a watermelon, causing our emotional guts to spill out for all to witness. We can’t get away fast enough from the person who delivered it, no matter how high-minded his intentions. Our very self-esteem is on the line.

Now, I’ll admit I’m not always the most diplomatic guy when it comes to speaking my mind about things; I tend to say it how I see it, which is probably because that’s how I like criticism delivered to me. Don’t pussyfoot around with it! Give it to me straight and unabashed, so I can weigh what you’ve said, decide if it sounds valid to me or not, make some changes or blow it off (maybe even roll my eyes in private). If it’s about my writing, I definitely want to take a look to see if it’s a valid point. That’s how I learn, how I improve, become a better writer.

Once upon a time, Craig Elias (Craig is someone you should know) let me know in no gentle way that I needed to add my telephone numbers to my email. He’d needed to reach me via the telephone and had to research me to get my number, which hadn’t made him very happy with me. I weighed his comments, decided he was right, and quickly added the numbers (with the help of my friend and technology mentor Peter Notschke—Peter is someone you should know, too). No hurt feelings, no internal feelings of anger; in fact, lots of gratitude for caring enough to pass on a worthwhile suggestion, never mind how acerbically he delivered it.

All this came to mind after an experience I had with a Twitter follower. I extended my usual sincere offer to help, gave him my email address and invited him to have a conversation, told him I shared my Cubs tickets with friends (he’s in Chicago), complimented a blog post he’d written–I seriously doubt he’s going to get many responses like that from people he’s followed, if any at all; my one criticism was about the first chapter of his yet unreleased book, which, I said, “put me to sleep.” Yes, I know, I could/should have been much gentler, but please reread paragraph four. To that I’ll add: whomever coined the phrase “It isn’t easy to teach an old dog new tricks,” knew what he or she was talking about. And I am definitely an old dog, folks!

His response was, “Sorry my chapter proved boring. Thanks for the feedback.” Then he must have blocked me because he was totally gone.

According to his website, this man was an officer in the military, was highly successful in sales for more than two decades, and is now a sales consultant. I suspect he’s a rather new one—he’s new to Twitter, has no LinkedIn presence, and his “testimonials” are all anonymous—but I’m not sure about that. A sales consultant often has to deliver some tough commentary to his clients. If this man’s clients are anywhere near as thin-skinned as he appears to be, he’s going to find it difficult to get his message of necessary change through to them. Asking others to be open-minded to your ideas and criticism, while being so sensitive to criticism yourself, doesn’t sound like a winning formula to this old pro.

What do you think?

How about you? Are you suffering from thin-skinitis? If so, let me suggest you toughen up a bit and open your mind. The rewards will be immeasurable.

 

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