David Beckham has an incredible football reputation, but he also has an enduring reputation as being a genuinely nice man. Recently in an interview he was asked what his thoughts were about Alex Ferguson’s recent autobiography, in which the former Manchester United Manager was critical of Beckham several times. Rather than respond with an equally critical rebuttal, or even a defence, or even an examination of Ferguson’s anecdotes, Beckham was extremely calm and unflustered, and genuinely seemed unbothered by the mention of what would no doubt be insulting to most people.
That is not to say that Beckham wasn’t insulted by the relevant parts of Ferguson’s book, which he may well have been, but that he didn’t feel the need to express any anger over the situation. He even went on to praise his ex boss and back-up previous statements he’s made that Ferguson is his favourite football club manager, and whilst not saying how wonderful a person he is, Beckham was careful not to anything that could be construed, in the slightest way, as an insult.
We can all learn something from David Beckham’s performance here, and apply it to situations where we find ourselves taking criticism from someone in or out of the room. By not engaging with ad hominem attacks or responding aggressively to criticism, we assert ourselves as calm and rational, willing to listen, and in control – if not of the situation then at least of ourselves. Perhaps one of the main reasons people fall into the traps of fighting back against insults or looking indignant or angry is that it can be hard to de-personalise criticism, and some criticism is indeed personal. If someone were to tell you about how they think you could do your job better, they may approach such an conversation in a number ways, effective and ineffective. Regardless, if you remain calm you can take in the information and opinion they offer and decide if it’s relevant. It may not be pleasant, but this sort of information helps you; either in improving something or sussing out how others perceive you. If someone were to personally attack you, the best thing to do is just to not engage and try to steer the conversation to more helpful topics.
Here, Beckham did just these things and he didn’t dwell on any negativity, whether on himself or on Ferguson, and all of this goes to support his well-earnt image as someone you could sit down have a chat with.