How to Respond When Team Members Put Themselves Down

Your perspective on others isn’t as important as their perspective on themselves.

You short-circuit growth when you rush to comfort, contradict self-criticisms, or offer quick solutions.

Cat's reflection

Your perspective on others isn't as important as their perspective on themselves.

Why we bully ourselves:

  1. We disrespect the power of self-accusation to dilute potential.
  2. We let our mind wander. A wandering mind often finds a dark hole.
  3. Self-criticism is a ploy for sympathy.
  4. The Imposter Syndrome has us by the throat.
  5. We learned to beat ourselves down by being put down.
  6. Maybe we want others to expect less of us.
  7. Aspiration has a high standard.


Respect people enough to take them seriously when they put themselves down.

When people complain about themselves, ask, “What makes you say that?” Or, ask, “What would you like to do about that?”

Suppose Jan says, “I’m lousy at delegating.” You respond with, “You’re good at delegating.” What does she say? “No, I’m not.” Instead, take her seriously.

When you take people seriously, they take themselves seriously.

Tip: Manipulators are shocked when you take them seriously.

Inquiry not contradiction:

  1. What aspect of delegating are you thinking about?
  2. What would you like to try?
  3. What might be true of you if you improved your delegating skills?
  4. Why do you want to improve?
  5. What’s the bravest thing you could try that might take your delegating skills to the next level?

Suppose Jan says, “I want to improve my delegation skills,” and you think she’s already great. Don’t interrupt her.

Never contradict someone who wants to improve, even if you think they’re doing fine.

Why do we put ourselves down?

How might leaders respond to team members who put themselves down?

Bonus material:

15 Ways to Help Without Getting in the Way | Leadership Freak

Tackling Self-Blame and Self-Criticism: 5 Strategies to Try | Psychology Today