Criticism means the expression of disagreement of someone or something that is based on perceived beliefs, faults, and mistakes. All of us have been criticized, sometimes unfairly. We have all criticized others at one time or another. To be critical is human. To criticize is to pass judgment on something or somebody out of our personal interpretation of what is good or bad. Some are better than others in this business.
We know the odd individuals among us who criticize everything and everybody. They probably have a bloated self-image, thus appointing themselves as the ultimate judge of everything human. Their constant whining criticism probably stems from their need to assert their sense of superiority. It is often an inferiority complex working in reverse gear.
It is made out of spite, to put down or demonize the party or thing being criticized. Sometimes, it is made out of good intentions, but from the perspective of prejudice or ignorance. The best negative criticism may point out a problem that everybody knows about, but it offers no solution.
It is born out of genuine concern or even love for the person or thing criticized. The best critics are those who have knowledge and experience in the subject matter and have given long and careful thought to the matter at hand before they even open their mouths.
A constructive critic will foresee a problem before anybody else does, and he will also offer options and solutions for solving the problem. He may even be ready to offer his service toward solving the problem. A leader in any field must also be a constructive critic.
A good critic will always be courteous in his manner and language, so as not to antagonize other people. His intention is perhaps to encourage and stimulate healthy debate and promote common understanding, and so he will avoid totalitarian absolutist condemnation. In short, good criticism must start from a humble standpoint.
Every day, I get emails and comments that are amazingly positive and encouraging, and in truth, these messages are the very thing that sustains my blogging. However, I also get negative comments now and then: criticism of my writing, and not nice criticism either.
How do you deal with criticism? I think the first reaction for most of us is to defend ourselves, or worse yet to lash back. While criticism can be taken as hurtful and demoralizing, it can also be viewed in a positive way: it is honesty, and it can spur us to do better. It’s an opportunity to improve.
How can you use criticism as a stepping stone?
1. Do not answer immediately
If your first reaction is to lash back at the person giving the criticism, or to become defensive, take a minute before reacting at all. Take a deep breath, and give it a little thought. It’s natural for us to get a little angry when criticized but do not react right away. Take your time before you respond. The cooling-off time gives you time for a more thoughtful response. It allows you to be less emotional and calmer with your response.
2. Give it a deep thought
One of the keys to my success in anything I do is my ability to find positive things in things that most people see as negative. Sickness forces me to stop my exercise program? That’s a welcome rest. Tired of my job? That’s a time to rediscover what’s important and to look for a better job. I had a laptop crash which took away everything that was on the pc. This allowed me to realize that my stuff wasn’t important, and to be thankful that my loved ones were still alive and safe.
You can do the same thing with criticism: find the positive in it. Sure, it may be rude and mean, but in most criticism, you can find a nugget of gold: honest feedback and a suggestion for improvement. For example, someone may criticize your writing. This actually happened to me when I started blogging. Extremely excited, I gave my first piece of writing to my friend who is an auditor, and the response I got from him was definitely not what I expected. He laughed and mockingly said, you do realize that your 4 pages of writing can all fit half a page if you stop repeating the same things over and over again which is quite monotonous.
I was a bit hurt by how he put it across but now I want to admit it. Part of the writer in me today owes it to him for the feedback he gave me. Instead of allowing my hurt emotions to get in the way, I asked him for pointers on how I could improve, and I got them every time I write, those pointers always keep me in check. It was better to allow him to mock me and correct me before I could let my first post get out to the world.
Sometimes it’s just someone having a bad day, but many times there’s at least a grain of truth in the criticism. See it as an opportunity to improve and without that constant improvement, we are just sitting still. Improvement is a good thing.
3. Focus on the message and ignore the tone
For example, someone says to you, you are an idiot, how does X lead to Y. Most of the time we get carried away by the insult but my advice to you is, to ignore the insult. Focus on the point they are making like in this case, they are questioning how X leads to Y. By ignoring the insult, you accept criticism gracefully and get an opportunity to improve
4. Thank the critic
Be polite when responding to criticism. Even if someone is harsh and rude, thank them. They may be having a bad day or maybe that’s how they are generally. All the same, thank them for taking the time to say something. It is unexpected but often appreciated.
5. Learn from the Criticism
Use the criticism to improve yourself. No matter how right you think you are and how wrong you think the critic may be, always search if there is room for you to improve. Even if a comment is mean, always ask yourself, “does this person have a point (despite their rude tone)?”
6. Ask them for advice on how to improve
Like I did above there, turn the criticism into a discussion. Sometimes criticism is a personal attack. But in other instances, it’s not. Take it as a criticism of your actions, not your person. If you do that, you can detach yourself from the criticism emotionally and see what should be done. Do not seek to defend yourself or attack the criticizer, rather respond in a calm and positive manner and ask them how you can improve. If they are genuine about the criticism, they will let you know.
Criticism focuses on what’s wrong and feedback focuses on how to improve. Feedback encourages and focuses on the future and solutions.
Benefits of Criticism
1. Criticism is a form of communication
If someone criticizes you, it means you are getting feedback. Regardless of the fact that the feedback may be rude but it means you have done something that they have noticed. That is the starting point. Criticism means someone actually decided to take their time and evaluate what you are doing. Laying the motives aside, this alone is important, they took their time to give you that feedback.
Criticism shows that people care about you enough to want to talk to you or give you a moment of their time. Receiving feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, is a good thing because it just goes to show that people are invested in what you are doing. Rather than letting you fail the critic feels that you’re the right person for what you are doing.
2. Criticism gives you a new set of eyes
If you are in business, in whatever product or service you are making, feedback is crucial. You can never know how other people regard your product or service if they don’t give you feedback. Feedback helps you look at what you are offering from another person’s eyes. Even though you may think that you are offering something good, you can never know for sure unless someone confirms or refutes it to you. It helps you see certain things that you may have missed or never considered because you are so deeply involved with what you are doing. Whether it’s a review of your work or a performance review, criticism can help you grow by shedding light and giving you the opportunity for improvement.
3. Criticism forces you to think deeply about what you do
Sometimes we are just so focused on doing our things that we never take a moment back to really think about what we are doing or the impact it is making on others. Criticism gives us an opportunity to think deeply about what we are doing. It helps us to be objective.
4. Criticism gives you an advantage
Criticism gives us a chance to improve. This gives us the advantage to be able to offer a better product or service. It is more like an evaluation that we get free without paying for it, use it to your advantage. Nothing is perfect, criticism helps you realize where you can improve.
5. If used properly it can build your relationships and audience
The way you respond to criticism can either help you build relationships or tarnish your image. If you respond in a polite and courteous manner, you not only win the critic but even the audience too. Don’t take criticism personally, take it as an evaluation of your work and desist from attacking the critic or being aggressive with your feedback.
Use it to your advantage
If you’re going to do anything interesting in the world, criticism is an unavoidable fact. You’ll be criticized because you’ll make mistakes or because some will be jealous or because people have different opinions or because people want to help you, or because they just want to pull you down. Never let criticism bring you down. Do not get discouraged or give up. Rather improve on whatever you are being criticized about. Do not be defensive or aggressive about it, otherwise, you won’t see the point being made.
Naturally, as humans, if we feel that we are being attacked, our first reaction is to retaliate, be defensive or aggressive but please don’t! Criticism calls for submission and sometimes it is belittling. Even if you feel you are being criticized unfairly, be the bigger person.
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