Moving Beyond Discouraging Comments

I didn’t post on Friday because I had someone tell me that “I didn’t have enough experience to be a leader”. And if you’ve read my bio, that’s not the first discouraging remark I have received in my career.

People have told me, “You’re not good enough to do this”, “You shouldn’t be in HR”, and of course my favorite, “You’re just the HR girl”

How Do You Respond?

Although you would think that in a professional world, we wouldn’t have to deal with discouraging remarks, that’s obviously not the case.

No matter how high up you get in your career there will be people who want to tear you down and tell you that you can’t do it.

The worst thing to do would be to believe the remarks and internalize them.

One my favorite quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt,

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

And how true is that?

We can choose how we respond to the critiques or comments of our peers and managers.

What Do You Do?

Feeling hurt is fine, but at some point, you have to take a step back and think about the comments.

  1. Does the hurtful comment or remark have any basis?
  2. Was the criticism an opinion of someone who you respect or care about?
  3. Is the remark coming from a good place and simply worded hastily?

Stepping Back

I think the hardest thing to learn for me was taking a step back from an emotionally charged situation. I get upset easily and I have this unfortunate side effect of bursting into tears when I’m worked up. (Not something I want to do in the workplace.)

The first thing I do when I realize that I’m upset or frustrated, I acknowledge how upset, frustrated, angry, or hurt I am. It sounds a little silly but for people who are always rushing to go through the day, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Sometimes you’re so emotionally charged, it’s hard to know what you’re feeling.

I pause. And I try to frame what I’m feeling into a coherent sentence.

The logical thinking that this requires often is the jumping off point for critical thinking and reduces the emotional rush (and consequently, the bursting into tears).

Some examples I’ve had:

“I’m so pissed because this guy just had the gall to tell me that I can’t lead.”

“I’m annoyed and angry because my stupid coworker just did something wrong and blamed it on me.”

I’m angry because I’m frustrated and I can’t express it. But I’m also hurt that Sandra didn’t hear my opinion out.”

As you can tell from these examples, it helps to put into context what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling what you’re feeling. This is actually a great tool when you’re communicating with a significant other or god-forbid, arguing with a family member.

That brief pause to acknowledge the feeling helps feed into the next part, analyzing the comment.

Now What?

I take into context the opinion of the person. For example, the person who told me I wasn’t meant to be a leader. He’s a manager, he’s interviewing me, and I get the feeling he’s trying to push my buttons to see how I would react.

If the person was a peer, my best friend, my mother, my response would be very different.

Think about the person who made the comment, was this person in a place of authority. Could their experience in life or what their job entails provide them with more information than what you might have?

For example, when my CEO says something to me, I realize that he has a great overview of the entire Company that I may not have. There’s more context that he can provide for a comment or decision.

But for the person who’s interviewing me, I didn’t think the comment was from someone who really cared about my experience. I think he was trying to get a rise out of me, or he was being a jerk.


Afer doing all of the above analysis, I try to take a second to judge the intentions of the person who made the comment. In this case, since I felt like he was trying to get a rise out of me or to point out my lack of experience, I responded with the following:

“I don’t have a 7-10 years of experience and know everything there is to know about HR. Any HR professional who tells you they know everything there is to know about HR is lying to you. But I can tell you that in the last year at the company…[list of things that have happened]…and those things ended up on my desk. Because I don’t know everything there is to know, but I will figure it out.”

Strong words… maybe not the best thing to say in an interview. But I had already decided I didn’t want to take the position.

It was professional. Not as polished as I would have liked. But, it was straightforward, direct and to the point.

And that’s why┬áI feel like I did pretty well.


But what do I know? I’m…

~Just the HR Girl


Tell me about times that you’ve had someone said something discouraging below or e-mail me.

I’d love to hear other stories about things you’ve faced!