Past experiences with obnoxious, micromanaging-prone colleagues, etc., have left me with a tendency toward knee-jerk defensive reactions to even the mildest, friendliest comments about my hobby/crafting projects-in-progress. I don't like having these reactions, but I'm at a loss as to how to deal with them less awkwardly and am thinking some better "scripts" need to be added to my personal phrase bank. Suggestions? (Lengthy details abound...)
posted by aecorwin to human relations (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
So, I do a lot of random arts-and-crafts projects (drawing, acrylic painting, woodcarving, amateur furniture construction, refinishing, sewing, etc.). I greatly enjoy this sort of thing and sharing the end result(s) with others. I also, as a general principle, welcome constructive criticism and actively seek it out when I get stuck on a project.
That said...for whatever reason, I find myself getting very defensive whenever people pop in and give me unsolicited comments on my works-in-progress. It doesn't matter if they're critical comments or compliments, either...my internal response is to immediately feel extremely awkward and confused about how to respond.
I guess the main problem is that if someone says ANYTHING about what I'm doing/how I'm doing it when I'm in the midst of concentrating on [random project]...it feels very invasive, like the other person is expecting me to consider their comments before continuing on with my work and that if I don't, I'm being foolish/pigheaded/"contrary"/etc.
I know the folks doing this don't intend to come across this way, and that my unpleasant internal reactions to their conversation attempts are most likely the result of my brain's hyper-reactivity to anything that smacks of "micromanaging", even when I fully realize that there's no actual micromanaging going on.
As a female-type person with a degree in electrical engineering who also happens to be short and young-looking for my age, and who also has Asperger's (diagnosed) and correspondingly atypical body language/poor "tone awareness", etc., I've had a disproportionate number of awful experiences with colleagues, etc. Who despite having zero authority over me take one look at me and presume I must have no idea what I'm doing...and proceed to tell me things I already know in a terribly condescending manner.
[I even had one guy (at a part-time programming job I held in college) lie to me in order to get me alone in an office under false pretenses, where he proceeded to spend a couple of hours alternating between telling me what was supposedly wrong with my working style and insisting that my "only hope for reaching my potential" was to accept him as my "mentor" (and that refusing was tantamount to "throwing my future away"). This same guy also had a habit of sitting right behind me while I was coding, staring over my shoulder, asking me why I wasn't done yet, and telling me I was "just trying to avoid responsibility"(???) when I told him his presence wasn't helping.]
So, basically, I've figured out that what's probably happening is that my negative experiences with "people making comments" in the workplace have spilled over into my off-hours to the extent that it's almost like I have a "fight or flight" reaction to anyone making even the mildest, friendliest comment about my hobby projects.
I have tried to avoid indulging this reaction to the point of, say, covering up and hiding my projects when anyone so much as walks into a room where I'm working on them, and am not actively neurotic enough to only be willing to work on my stuff in secret...but it's still incredibly annoying to be caught up in this extremely awkward mindset and response-tendency when I KNOW not everyone is an obnoxious ex-colleague.
What I'd really like, therefore, is a suggested script or set of suggested "response phrases" that I can employ when people comment on my stuff as I'm working on it. I think if I had some reasonable phrases to respond with this would help quell my inner defensiveness a lot, as in general I feel better around people when I have a clue as to how to communicate what I actually want to, vs. flailing around aimlessly as tends to happen when I've encountered a "blank space" in my social repertoire.
Again, when it comes to hobby stuff, it is NOT a matter of anyone actually trying to micromanage me...they're just making casual comments only to have me "freak out" on them, and I want to stop doing that.
I've already worked out that if someone says "hey, looks good!" the best thing I can say is simply "Thanks!" (with no tacked-on "but it's NOT DONE YET!") and proceed to keep working.
But when it comes to comments along the lines of, "Hey I was just walking by and thinking there's this cool/easy way you could implement [X] if you feel like it...", I have *no clue* what the heck I'm supposed to say, especially if I'd like to hear their suggestion but not right then.
Is it acceptable/polite to say something like, "Great! But I'm trying to concentrate right now, so maybe could you tell me about it later?"
Also, I'd like to know how to politely respond to it when someone comments (neutrally) that the thing I'm working on looks a certain way. E.g., if I'm trying to sculpt, say, a miniature car, and someone walks up and says, "That looks like a Toyota!" I find this extremely "flustering", as often when a comment like that is made, I might not have even decided yet on what subtype of car I'm making.
Being told it looks like anything specific at that point feels...stifling somehow, even though I know the commenter doesn't mean it that way, and I don't want friends/family/etc. to feel like they have to "walk on eggshells" around me when I'm doing anything arty. I've tried telling people "please don't make any comments about this thing at all, positive or negative, until I ask for feedback" but this apparently comes across as weird and (again) overly defensive and awkward. It'd be handy to know exactly what I could/should say in those situations that would be simultaneously honest and non-weird.
So, all in all, I'm curious about how others, especially those with similar past experiences, deal with this particular aspect of human relations? Thanks!