Whenever you make the decision to improve any area of your life, be it learn a new skill or something else, you’ll have to deal with concern trolls.
You know, those people who fake concern for your well-being when their goal is to undermine enthusiasm and cause you to question your choices. They say things like:
- Aren’t you concerned about security online?
- I hope you don’t let this technology take over your life?
- The NSA is recording everything you do, be careful.
- I hope you don’t become one of those fitness fanatics, where all you talk about is Crossfit.
There are a few ways to prepare for these concern trolls so that they don’t dissuade you from learning new things, including a new tech skill.
Recognize the Troll
I once had a friend give me a backhanded compliment mixed with a side dose of concern.
I use my calendar extensively and exclusively to make sure I don’t forget to do things. My friend decide to compliment and concern troll me in one sitting: “It’s great that you’re so organized and use your calendar to track everything, but I’m sorry, that just doesn’t work for me. I just don’t need to have my life controlled like that.”
That statement from my friend took me down this rabbit hole. It started with me questioning whether I was too controlling of my life and ending with me dying alone. And yes, I went there (to dying alone) after one statement from a concern troll.
What pulled me out of this hole was a small reminder: I could try to remember all my commitments, or I could just use my calendar and have it remember things for me. I chose the latter.
Concern trolls have the ability to feign concern on areas that we’re most sensitive about.
If you find yourself criticizing other people, you're probably doing it out of resistance. When we see others beginning to live their authentic selves, it drives us crazy if we have not lived out our own.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
Always consider the source.
How to Deal with Concern Trolls
Concern trolls are not going anywhere, and you’ll probably encounter more of them the more changes you make in your life. So, how do you deal with them?
Remember that you’re doing this for a reason
You’re learning these new tech skills as a means to improve your life:
- You're learning how to use PowerPoint because you want to create more interesting presentations.
- You're learning how to use your calendar because you don’t want to forget important birthdays.
- You're learning how to use WordPress so that you can make last-minute changes to your website without having to wait on your graphic designer.
When you’re clear on you WHY, the influence of concern trolls can be negated.
Figure out Whose Opinion Matters
I love this exercise from Brene Brown, NY Times bestselling author and researcher on shame, vulnerability, and connection, as she explained how to handle feedback. It can also be applied to concern trolls: Get a small piece of paper and on that piece of paper put the names of people whose opinions matters to you.
If the person isn't on your list, let their words go in one ear and right out the other.
Your Interpretations of their statement is just ONE of the many interpretations of their statement
I learned this from Marty Lefkoe in his program Natural Confidence. The beliefs we have about ourselves have been informed by how we've interpreted certain past situations in our life.
My friend who told me she’d never want her life controlled by her smartphone the way my phone controls me? Not only did my friend have a right to her opinion, but there were also many other ways I could have interpreted this situation:
- I could have seen control in a positive light, as a way to keep my life in order.
- Since my friend doesn't actually know how I'm actually using my calendar and I didn't really qualify her “control concerns” I don't actually know what she means.
Create a few scripts that you can use in response.
The whole “technology is going to control my life” is something I hear quite often (mainly for those who have a fear of technology). I could have easily responded: “you know, I don’t see it as control. I actually cleared so much mental clutter once I started using my calendar. I don’t have to worry about missing appointments because my calendar reminds me.”
Now it's your turn. What is one area of concerns you’d expect to receive from others as your embark on your new technology path and how can you prepare a 2-3 sentence script in response to your critics?
Image: Woman is feeling sad by lenanet