Criticism


No-one enjoys being criticized. It can be painful and terribly difficult to accept but as Aristotle said, "There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing." Criticism makes us feel attacked and judged. We look at it as a loss rather than a gain but it is one of those things that is critical to growth but doesn't always feel good especially when the manner in which it's delivered is tactless. A mentor of mine explained to me how to best handle criticism - "Listen to it but always separate the meat from the bones." So, what does it mean to separate the meat from the bones? I'm glad you asked. Separating the meat from the bones means taking in what is useful and discarding what isn't. Understanding what you can use to improve and forgetting you ever heard what you consider utterly useless to you.

Although criticism can be a great catalyst for growth, there is a huge difference between constructive and destructive criticism. As John Douglas put it, "Learn to see the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. Appreciate the constructive and ignore the destructive." Destructive criticism is terribly dangerous because it chips away at the self-esteem of the recipient and messes with their confidence. Providing feedback in a hurtful and malicious way is never helpful. It actually does more harm than it provides any good.

Constructive criticism on the other hand can be extremely useful. You are still pointing out errors but at the same time providing ideas and suggestions on how improvements can be made. When you exhibit awareness and watch your delivery, you provide ways in which the recipient can grow and you make it easier for your feedback to be received. We all need to be generous with our praise of others and more tactful with our criticism. At the end of the day, the only reason anyone should be providing feedback is to help another improve and not to put others down or hurt them. If we refuse to open ourselves up to constructive criticism, it may mean that we are not willing to be better.

No-one is perfect and if we are honest, we all have areas in our lives where we can be better, including the person providing the feedback. With respect to the carrier of the criticism, there are some important things to consider. Who is the feedback coming from? Can the information they are attempting to deliver be trusted? Could they be biased in any way? Is their feedback objective? Is this about you or about them? Are they simply trying to make themselves feel better by debasing you? What does their life look like?

Always remember that criticism is simply someone else's perspective which may be clouded by many things that do not necessarily concern you. Do you best to stay calm and listen to what is being said. Take whatever time you need to think about the information you are getting. Do not be afraid to end the meeting if you need to so you can spend time reviewing what was said. If you have mentors that you trust and who know you, run the information by them. They may be able to provide you with a great way to respond. They can also clarify for you if the criticism is about you or the messenger. If you decide there is some merit to the feedback, humble yourself and accept the information. Thank the messenger and let them know that their critique is accepted by being specific about what you will address.

Never allow yourself to feel dejected, rejected, embarrassed or ashamed of criticism. Zig Ziglar said it well with this quote: "Don't be distracted by criticism. Remember, the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you."

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