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How can I develop thicker skin and handle criticism better? self esteem, stress
Old 12-20-2011, 04:24 AM   #1
cypherscouter13
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I'm an introverted and shy person and have always had alot of anxiety in social situations. I think alot of the problems come from the fact that I'm overly sensitive and let things get under my skin too much. I get afraid of socializing with others because I'm afraid I'll get criticized as I've never handled criticism well and hate getting rejected. I know this is pathetic since I'm a 24 year old man

When somebody criticizes me or makes some judgment about me, especially if it is unexpected, I have a strong physical reaction. I feel my heartbeat speeding up and my throat constricting, so that if I try to say anything back, I'll speak softly and appear weak. So its become a habit to just saying nothing back in response or to want to be nice to someone, even if they're being mean towards me. This greatly hurt my teenage years, when I was NEVER able to stand up to bullies

Because I have OCD, I end up ruminating about the event, my own reaction, and how it must have been perceived for DAYS on end. I have hated myself so much for not being able to appear tough and letting the insults get to me. But it never seems to help me the next time it happens.

I was so ashamed about this problem that I have never talked about it with anyone. I also thought it was a problem that would just go away as I got older and matured, but that hasn't been the case.

I am currently a grad student and a TA for a course. Recently, a few brats in the class had been very mean towards me in the way they complained about my grading, they talk during my lectures, they have complained that I don't answer their emails fast enough, etc. I had enough of it and felt so angry at myself for not being assertive and saying to them "don't talk to me like that!". I couldn't control my anger, and as a result, I wrote personal comments in their graded papers and got in some trouble for it. The professor took their side.

I have the same involuntary reactions whenever I have to unexpectedly interact with somebody I dislike. I can be perfectly happy, joking around with friends, but the moment somebody I dislike walks up, I tense up and feel really uncomfortable and I can't physically control it.

How can I grow "thicker skin" so to speak and condition myself to be less sensitive about these things? How can I train myself to respond gracefully? Is it just something that comes with age?
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Old 12-20-2011, 04:38 AM   #2
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Understand people's motive and that it is not personal, they are doing it for themselves. It has no deeper meaning, get used to it.

You might also confuse introversion's social interference with other unpleasant things in the occasion. Understand people and study yourself.
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Old 12-20-2011, 07:05 AM   #3
Mercurial
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If you can't talk, don't. Just give them a look of 'As if I care about your opinion' and leave.
Your indifference is better than your feeble attempt at defending yourself.
Also, you shouldn't care what other people think. What the hell do they know?

I was very awkward as a child but learnt 'Fake it till you make it".' Pretend you are, and soon enough you will be. Copy others reactions even if it feels fake or unreal.
Don't agonise over what could have happened, just accept that it is what it is and move on.
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Old 12-20-2011, 09:43 AM   #4
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1) Stop caring what other people think. Well, not entirely. But keep in mind that not everyone is going to like you, and not everyone is going to make you feel better. It's no big deal. Really. Look around you and find those people who truly care about you, and value their opinion. For the rest, listen to their criticism, and critically evaluate it. Is it valid? Fix it. Is it an emotional attack? They're immature. Move on. Are they clueless? Ignore it.

2) Find some help for your OCD. See a counselor or therapist.
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Old 12-20-2011, 10:30 AM   #5
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Learn to be a True Schizoid. T.M. Alternatively just stop caring. I used to be very sensitive. Try to put things into perspective and intellectualise. In the greater course of thing it really doesn't matter.
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Old 12-20-2011, 10:34 AM   #6
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It takes practice. When you feel yourself getting aggitated, breath slowly and deeply and relax. Responding immediately is not necessary. Don't rush yourself.
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Old 12-20-2011, 10:46 AM   #7
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I have the same problem. It is my opinion that us Thinkers can't communciate on that level, we don't understand it and we don't do well on it. People see that and use that, they attack you from the lower levels, lower us to their turf and destroy you. Situations like that one that you describe are not prone to reason, the way you think will not provide you with a good retort. I guess experience matters, the more you encounter it, the more you learn how to deal with it. Also, speak to some experienced teachers and ask them for advice. If you continue to rely solely on your wits and try to respond logically, you'll only get laughed at because people who are mean to you don't udnerstand or value your logical responses to their behavior.
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Old 12-20-2011, 11:07 AM   #8
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Take a look at how professionals give and receive feedback. Granted, the giving party is probably not very tactful, and doesn't have any reason to. But the most important thing to remember is that feedback is about the work, and not the person who did the work.

Asking the right questions might make whatever they're saying more useful to you.

You ARE working as a professional. How are complaints from students dealt with? Do you have to deal with them directly? Otherwise you can tell them to take their complaints to the proper channels. Maybe there's a formal procedure which will validate the complaints first.

What does your management have to say? At my job, customers might complain to me but management is on my side. Management knows I will have to delay one project to finish another. And the customer will then complain, but the management knows this, and is allright with this.

You mention not answering mail quickly enough. Maybe it's quick enough, just not quick enough for those students. But students are like customers. They're not your boss.
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Old 12-20-2011, 11:51 AM   #9
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@OP -

All of the above advice is useful, but doesn't quite get to the essence of the matter.

First, as to your students - you are the leader in this situation, and are obliged to act like it. You obviously are not presenting yourself properly, or your students wouldn't publicly dis you so. And if they did, a proper authority figure would have asserted that authority to put an end to it - various methods come to mind; do we need to detail them?

Second, we know why you're not commanding the respect your position demands, don't we? It's not because you don't have command of the material, is it? It is because of the manner in which you present yourself and respond to situations, isn't it? And that arises from what's going on in your head about your human relationship skills. Those insecurities reveal themselves in your presentation of yourself.

Is the anger you feel about criticism coming from a feeling that the criticism is unjustified? Are you sure it's unjustified? If you truly believe that, then there is no reason for anger at anyone - a silent dismissal of unjustified criticism works well in most cases. Doesn't work at all if the criticism is well founded, nor does defensively responding to it.

Pretty straight-forward, really - figure out why you're angry. Learn to carry yourself with the authority your position and command of the subject warrants. Present yourself as someone like that should, even if you don't feel it being natural or easy - you're on stage lad - act.
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Old 12-20-2011, 01:12 PM   #10
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I have found my interaction with the amazing array of INTJerks here at the Forum to be very helpful (and, uh...I'm a bigger jerk than most). We INTJ's can be really cut-throat at times; this has been good for me, because I don't get it in real life.

Perhaps getting into a few nasty skirmishes here (without getting BANNED) will help you develop some strategies that work for you.
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Old 12-20-2011, 05:24 PM   #11
cypherscouter13
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  Originally Posted by Mercurial
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If you can't talk, don't. Just give them a look of 'As if I care about your opinion' and leave.
Your indifference is better than your feeble attempt at defending yourself.
Also, you shouldn't care what other people think. What the hell do they know?

I was very awkward as a child but learnt 'Fake it till you make it".' Pretend you are, and soon enough you will be. Copy others reactions even if it feels fake or unreal.
Don't agonise over what could have happened, just accept that it is what it is and move on.

  Originally Posted by Rivers
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I have the same problem. It is my opinion that us Thinkers can't communciate on that level, we don't understand it and we don't do well on it. People see that and use that, they attack you from the lower levels, lower us to their turf and destroy you.

I know I shouldn't care what others think. What's bothering me is how I must appear to others. I know that I probably speak a little softly during my lectures (people have said that I speak monotonishly and mumble). Maybe that's why the brats think they can try to bully me. And I got furious at myself whenever I think I gave in to their bullying

  Originally Posted by Rivers
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Also, speak to some experienced teachers and ask them for advice.

  Originally Posted by paulm
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Take a look at how professionals give and receive feedback. Granted, the giving party is probably not very tactful, and doesn't have any reason to. But the most important thing to remember is that feedback is about the work, and not the person who did the work.

Asking the right questions might make whatever they're saying more useful to you.

You ARE working as a professional. How are complaints from students dealt with? Do you have to deal with them directly? Otherwise you can tell them to take their complaints to the proper channels. Maybe there's a formal procedure which will validate the complaints first.

What does your management have to say? At my job, customers might complain to me but management is on my side. Management knows I will have to delay one project to finish another. And the customer will then complain, but the management knows this, and is allright with this.

When I talked about this with the professor a month ago, she just said "don't say anything back to them", "be nice to them because they're going to fill out the TA evaluations", "just laugh it off". But I think the problem is that because I don't say anything and don't make it clear that the way they act towards me is inappropriate (for example, I should've said "don't talk to me like that!"), they sense my weakness and try to bully me

It probably would've helped if I had a more assertive man or woman giving the advice for me.

  Originally Posted by paulm
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You mention not answering mail quickly enough. Maybe it's quick enough, just not quick enough for those students. But students are like customers. They're not your boss.

I responded to ALL of their previous emails.. and probably within 12 hours. I doubt their other TA's responded that quickly. When I sensed that they were bullying brats, that's when I decided to not answer ONE of their emails. It's not like I repeatedly ignored their emails. It happened ONE time. And they blew it out of proportion and the prof still took their side

  Originally Posted by MrFox
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@OP -

All of the above advice is useful, but doesn't quite get to the essence of the matter.

First, as to your students - you are the leader in this situation, and are obliged to act like it. You obviously are not presenting yourself properly, or your students wouldn't publicly dis you so. And if they did, a proper authority figure would have asserted that authority to put an end to it - various methods come to mind; do we need to detail them?

Second, we know why you're not commanding the respect your position demands, don't we? It's not because you don't have command of the material, is it? It is because of the manner in which you present yourself and respond to situations, isn't it? And that arises from what's going on in your head about your human relationship skills. Those insecurities reveal themselves in your presentation of yourself.

I think you are completely right. I think I'm not appearing assertive enough. I get nervous when I have to speak in front of the whole class to give lectures. And my mumbling and soft voice makes me appear weak to others. And its because I'm too thin-skinned.


 
Pretty straight-forward, really - figure out why you're angry. Learn to carry yourself with the authority your position and command of the subject warrants. Present yourself as someone like that should, even if you don't feel it being natural or easy - you're on stage lad - act.

but the problem isn't just with leading the class. I have terrible sensitivity and am way too thin-skinned in general, I ruminate about my failures ENDLESSLY due to my OCD, and that's why I hate getting rejected and can't socialize. I don't know how to fix this.

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Old 12-21-2011, 01:50 PM   #12
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If you look skinny and easily botherable, then you're a target. In that case I strongly recommend working out physically to build up a little muscle mass. It is amazing what bodily strength does for one socially.
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Old 12-21-2011, 04:44 PM   #13
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Stop eating carbs, and eat more meat/poultry/fish. Your insuline level will go down.
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Old 12-21-2011, 09:52 PM   #14
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When faced with criticism that upsets you, take a moment or two and think about it.

You may make it appear as though you're digesting and considering the criticism (and in fact, this is the goal), which leads the person offering it to believe you're taking them seriously, even if you ultimately reject the criticism.

Anyway, while you're taking your moment to think, try to examine the criticism, examine your behavior that earned it, try to factor in possible motives and reasoning for the person offering it, etc. Just flood yourself with data, and try to analyze the situation as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

This, in addition to the impression you give as stated above, has the benefit of distracting you from your emotional reaction. The goal is to distance yourself from how you feel about it in order to look at the situation from the outside. Pick it up and examine it, as if it were a thing on a table. Look at it, then put it back down.

At that point, it may be easier to give a calm, reasoned response. I would say it's a trick to make yourself appear more in control, but really it's a trick to make yourself actually more in control
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Old 12-21-2011, 10:11 PM   #15
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Well, since you're introverted this is difficult. If you were extroverted, then you could control the frame of emotion in your conversation. Say you are conversing with a group and discussing something that brings cheer and playfulness. Lets say that someone says something negative about you to you. You just glance at them and don't even acknowledge that they said it. If they want to speak with you they will have to join in the groups emotions.

Also note that most of the time when somebody criticizes, then it is because they are upset. Like dogs. Dogs bark when they're excited or angry. A person will bark with their words. So when someone criticizes rather harshly, don't take it seriously. Most of the time they are venting their emotions at you since you may seem like an easy target. The other times is because they don't like you. But in that case there's nothing you can do about it anyways so there's no use in worrying.

When I am insulted, which rarely happens by the way, I just shrug it off and stop speaking to that individual, or I make it a self depreciating joke and laugh at it. If they were to keep trying to get under my skin, then I guess could verbally stab at them, but if they're trying to do that then it's pretty much my duty to put them in their place; I am non-combative naturally so someone trying to piss me off deserves a serving of fuck you.
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Old 12-21-2011, 10:48 PM   #16
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I used to be this way. I had two epiphanies though each of them required me to hit complete rock bottom or at least what I thought would be rock bottom until I hit them and realized they weren't that bad at all. Each time it allowed me to emerge stronger and more confident because I knew if I could get through that I could get through anything.

The first was my senior prom. First time ever getting really drunk, and I mean really really really drunk. Had a beer before that, but never anything like this. I got wasted made a complete ass of myself and ended up stumbling off with this fat chick. The next Monday I was the talk of the entire school. Everyone was ripping on me, but what I noticed was that they didn't really hate me or think lessor of me they knew I was wasted out of my mind. To them it was just refreshing to see such a quiet up tight guy break out of his shell. After surviving that getting criticized for small shit didn't really bother me much at all.


The second time was when I met the single most amazing woman on the planet earth. I had fallen for some girls before, but nothing even close to this. I didn't think women like this actually existed. I knew I had to make a move on this girl I couldn't let her be the one that got away. So I tried to wait for the right time at first, but it didn't come and then finally I said fuck it and just went for it.

She told me she liked me, but that there was this other guy she was interested in and she really needed to see things through with him first. Which wasn't too bad of a reaction until a week later when my best friend and roommate sat me down and told me he was the guy she was talking about.

Now I've lost my fair share of women I've been interested in, but every other time it's been to some just shit head. As a result I've always been able to tell myself that it's not because there's something wrong with me it's because the woman made a terrible choice. This time though it was to my best friend. A guy I have immense respect for. It forced me to realize the pure and simple fact that I'm not as good a man as I could be. She didn't make a mistake. She picked a better man. And so instead of worrying about trying to prevent people from having bad perceptions of me, it made me want to work to improve myself as a man, and use the criticisms of me as fuel to drive me rather than a weight holding me down.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. The more criticism you take the better you will become at handling it. Eventually you'll be able to see what criticisms you need to take seriously and improve on them and which ones you can brush aside and even in many cases throw right back in the face of your critic.

---------- Post added 12-21-2011 at 08:53 PM ----------

Oh yeah this also reminds me of my favorite quote....

  Originally Posted by Michael Jordan
I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

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Old 12-22-2011, 12:33 AM   #17
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Oh I have a lot of experience in handling reckless responses towards criticism.
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What you can do immediately: silent. Just remember what the criticiser says, but keep your mouth shut. Bare this principle in mind. You may find it hard to keep silent initially, but keep on trying. From my own experience, I find that silence is way better than any kind of poorly composed responses because of the time constrain.

What you can do after: There are two kinds of criticism. One kind is true and helpful, another kind is simply poops, and both can come from the same individual. So you have to sit and sort it out — which is useful, and which is poops. Then, take the useful ones and accept it humbly, discard the poops and never remember it again.

If that person gives more useful stuff than poops, thank you for his/her criticism afterwards. You won't regret for doing so. People will see that you are able to take criticism and improve yourself.

If that person gives more crap... Then just smile whenever he/she speaks again next time, and nod with polite "thank you". You can let the smile be a little too bright or innocent. If he/she is smart enough to get your sarcasm, he/she will shut up in the future. Else, well, he/she is hopeless and there is nothing you can do.
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Old 12-22-2011, 02:30 AM   #18
cypherscouter13
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  Originally Posted by Paul Siraisi
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If you look skinny and easily botherable, then you're a target. In that case I strongly recommend working out physically to build up a little muscle mass. It is amazing what bodily strength does for one socially.

well, I'd say the main problem is that I'm rather short - about 5'7. Also, I'm asian and apparently I have a monotonish voice because I get shy about showing emotions

  Originally Posted by LOL WUT
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When I am insulted, which rarely happens by the way, I just shrug it off and stop speaking to that individual, or I make it a self depreciating joke and laugh at it. If they were to keep trying to get under my skin, then I guess could verbally stab at them, but if they're trying to do that then it's pretty much my duty to put them in their place; I am non-combative naturally so someone trying to piss me off deserves a serving of fuck you.

I want to be able to talk back to them in a loud, assertive voice.

  Originally Posted by ischuldt
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I guess the point I'm trying to make is that what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. The more criticism you take the better you will become at handling it. Eventually you'll be able to see what criticisms you need to take seriously and improve on them and which ones you can brush aside and even in many cases throw right back in the face of your critic.

---------- Post added 12-21-2011 at 08:53 PM ----------

Oh yeah this also reminds me of my favorite quote....

hmm, maybe that's the problem? I hardly interact with people, so I'm not used to criticism and thus become allergic to it? That MJ quote helps a bit. I shouldn't be so hard on myself for my mistakes because that is the only way I'll learn and get better at dealing with difficult, stupid people who resort to personal attacks

  Originally Posted by K27
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Oh I have a lot of experience in handling reckless responses towards criticism.
To view links or images in this forum your post count must be 2 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.


What you can do immediately: silent. Just remember what the criticiser says, but keep your mouth shut. Bare this principle in mind. You may find it hard to keep silent initially, but keep on trying. From my own experience, I find that silence is way better than any kind of poorly composed responses because of the time constrain.

What you can do after: There are two kinds of criticism. One kind is true and helpful, another kind is simply poops, and both can come from the same individual. So you have to sit and sort it out which is useful, and which is poops. Then, take the useful ones and accept it humbly, discard the poops and never remember it again.

If that person gives more useful stuff than poops, thank you for his/her criticism afterwards. You won't regret for doing so. People will see that you are able to take criticism and improve yourself.

If that person gives more crap... Then just smile whenever he/she speaks again next time, and nod with polite "thank you". You can let the smile be a little too bright or innocent. If he/she is smart enough to get your sarcasm, he/she will shut up in the future. Else, well, he/she is hopeless and there is nothing you can do.

I thought just being silent is what makes me appear weak? We live in a society of extroverts who look down on introverts.

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Old 12-22-2011, 02:47 AM   #19
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  Originally Posted by cypherscouter13
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hmm, maybe that's the problem? I hardly interact with people, so I'm not used to criticism and thus become allergic to it? That MJ quote helps a bit. I shouldn't be so hard on myself for my mistakes because that is the only way I'll learn and get better at dealing with difficult, stupid people who resort to personal attacks

Everybody fails man. The difference between great people and average people is that average people use failure as an excuse to quit, great people use it as a reason to get better. If you can learn that and more importantly exercise that reality you'll find that you are the only thing that was holding you back.

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Old 12-22-2011, 03:11 AM   #20
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I am a very assertive person, trainer, sales manager and business owner and I have a few tips for you.

1. Force yourself to speak up
2. Enunciate crisply always
3. Be very conscious of the direction your mouth is facing when you speak (talking into the wall is deadening)

4. Walk briskly
5. Stand up straight
6. Appear eager to answer questions and interact with students by answering with enthusiasm

7. Develop a stock a one liners to get control of the class. For example,

When a few idots are acting up. You can say "I appreciate your enthusiasm. Lets keep it respectful so the quieter folks can hear the lesson" and then move on

8. When you are shutting down from criticism, speak up more, stand taller, enunciate more crisply

9. Learn to say "interesting perspective" as an escape hatch to regroup when insulted

Appearing to be a victim results in often being one. Its a self fulfiller. The way you carry yourself is inviting it. STOP

Good luck
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Old 12-22-2011, 03:58 AM   #21
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  Originally Posted by cypherscouter13
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I thought just being silent is what makes me appear weak? We live in a society of extroverts who look down on introverts.

So?
Appear weak for that moment is not a big deal.
And if they look down on you, no matter what you do, they will look down on you. Why the fuss?

The inability to sorting out useful comments from garbage is a true weakness.

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Old 12-23-2011, 02:10 PM   #22
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  Originally Posted by cypherscouter13
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well, I'd say the main problem is that I'm rather short - about 5'7. Also, I'm asian and apparently I have a monotonish voice because I get shy about showing emotions

5'7" is not a problem if it's a muscular 5'7". The workouts could also cause your body to relax better, which could cause you to simply to feel more cheerful. Anyway. I see YupItsMe has some good advice too.

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Old 12-23-2011, 08:41 PM   #23
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  Originally Posted by cypherscouter13
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I couldn't control my anger, and as a result, I wrote personal comments in their graded papers and got in some trouble for it. The professor took their side.

  Originally Posted by Paul Siraisi
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If you look skinny and easily botherable, then you're a target. In that case I strongly recommend working out physically to build up a little muscle mass. It is amazing what bodily strength does for one socially.

Have you considered taking karate lessons? I don't recommend the kind of conditioning I had, but it did toughen me up. Being freed from state control (public school) and parental control (abuse) at the age of eighteen was a major turning point in my life. Upon my emancipation, I was no longer required to be housed and schooled with monkeys.

In school, prayer was cumpulsory, but the state gave me no protection from assault by monkeys. The monkey at home was forcibly removed from the house when I was 11, but he still retained parental rights, and did not go to prison. His parental rights expired when I was 18, and going forward I chose to avoid him more often than not.

Karate is a more civilised way to learn how to deal with conflict, and a good instructor will also teach its spiritual aspects. Mind and body are not separate entities. I started working out in my early 20s, and it did me a world of good. The precision taught in karate could give you more precision when you respond to provocative behaviour by the brats. Also, never self-incriminate by providing documentation.

I haven't taken karate myself, but then I don't fight fair if I am physically attacked.

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Old 12-24-2011, 09:20 AM   #24
VENUS 2020
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  Originally Posted by Monte314
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I have found my interaction with the amazing array of INTJerks here at the Forum to be very helpful (and, uh...I'm a bigger jerk than most). We INTJ's can be really cut-throat at times; this has been good for me, because I don't get it in real life.

Perhaps getting into a few nasty skirmishes here (without getting BANNED) will help you develop some strategies that work for you.

^I like this suggestion. It will get you used to responding to adversity. The plus is that your response does not have to be immediate so you have time to think it through. Try it. Develop some zingers!

We all have a tendency to replay unpleasant events in our heads. Instead of thinking "I should have" done this or that, rephrase your admonition to "Next time I will" do this or that and actually do it if the situation arises again.

You should develop some standard responses to situations that you encounter regularly. YupItsMe made this suggestion already and provided some good examples.

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Old 12-24-2011, 01:45 PM   #25
Haumea
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I'm going to suggest something less than obvious.

The problem of sensitivity and being thin-skinned is frequently deeply rooted in fears of inadequacy and failure. I offer a more global and less targeted solution - strive for independence and set out to overcome weakness in those areas where you feel inadequate or vulnerable.

In other words, decide to consciously, deliberately address your weaknesses regardless of what the environment throws at you. You do not want to be reactive - that is solve problems as they come up - but proactive.

If you do this the specific issues often fade.
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