Recently I wrote an article that received some criticism. It was widely applauded too-my most popular one yet-but it was the first time that I have received harsh online criticism for my writing.
Ultimately I knew their criticism was baseless-not because I can’t see a flaw in myself, but because I was trying to extract wisdom from someone who is widely seen as evil-who happens to be from a popular TV show that a lot of people watch.
I was watching the show and I ended up hearing the character say something that summarized a thought that I had previously on expectations. It just so happened that despite the negative intention of the quote and it being from someone evil, that I wanted to try to extract the gold I saw and share it with others.
Unfortunately for me, a small number of people felt that because of who said it that they couldn’t get on board with the lesson I extracted from it (which is their choice). It also appears that some of them only read the title before commenting.
This is teaching me about how to deal with criticism. I’ve faced it before, but this muscle hasn’t been exercised in a while and so my defenses have gotten flabby.
Like all things, I feel I must extract a lesson from this, grow, and share it with others. Because this too, fending off criticism, can be a good business and life skill to develop.
Recently a senior coworker came up to me and told me something that I could do better. They did this in as good of a way as could be expected and were visibly awkward trying their best to not to come off in the wrong way. I felt for their own pain in communicating a criticism and appreciated their effort.
This is why this muscle must be worked out in two different ways: how to receive criticism, good and bad, and how to give it, fairly and kindly.
Let’s start with bad criticism, what I call critical criticism. This is the kind of criticism that follows along these lines: bullying, trolling, and things said harshly, tactlessly, or without merit.
These criticisms are not productive and constructive and do not provide any value to any kind of conversation. This is widely used by all of us daily. None of us are immune to this, whether it's on the drive to work, in the office, at home, in our head, with our families, or what have you.
Critical criticisms diminish your effectiveness at communicating well and are neither appropriate nor effective.
Had many of those people who commented on my article actually pointed out a flaw in my argument, instead of a flaw in the character of the person I was using to teach a positive lesson, this would not have been a critical and unbased criticism.
On the other hand we have good criticisms, or as they are widely known as, constructive criticisms. These words communicate a similar message, that someone is doing something wrong or that there is conflict somewhere with ideas, people, or something else. But this is done in a far more appropriate and socially acceptable manner.
Treating people with dignity and respect is often harder and more delicate than blowing a lid. We often know better how to demonstrate and communicate anger or frustration than we do know how to communicate gentleness, compassion, and encouragement. This is of course further exacerbated by the touchiness of pointing out a criticism.
My coworker, that I mentioned above, was unsure in their approach to the criticism, but they made sure that I knew they cared for me and also valued my performance. They got down to my level, they looked me in the eyes, then said it softly so no one else could hear, and while they stumbled across their words, there was immense sincerity in the correction.
It did not make me feel good to be corrected, but it did make me feel good to know that my coworker trusted me enough to approach me and showed me dignity in the way they did it.
Don’t be a critical criticizer, chances are the person who messed up is just a flawed human trying their best in this life. Chances are they open to learning even if the correction is hard to take. And chances are they just to be treated well no matter what.
I’ve had many people point out ways that my writing can be better and have done so with tact and care for me as a human being. I’ve made my corrections, thanked them for their effort in helping me, and went along life just a little smarter and a little wiser because of them.
For those that criticize needlessly and let their words run with rampant disregard, think of the positive power you could do if you placed that same effort into building people up.
Then you will be a creator. And that is a beautiful thing.