Posted by: Anne | October 15, 2011

criticism: don’t just ignore it?

Not long ago one of my favorite bloggers wrote a post asking the haters to cease and desist leaving hateful messages for her. Most of the comments (from her other faithful readers) were along the lines of:

“Living well is the best revenge.”
“My money’s on you, honey!”
“Don’t worry about (insert here)! They are duck huntin’ with a rake. (AKA These people are CLUELESS.)”

The post and its responses led me to thinking about criticism in general. Many times, when we share a criticism that we have received, our well-meaning listener will tell us to “just ignore it.” While ignoring it sounds easy enough, let’s face it, words can cut right to our core, and for whatever reason, some things are harder to shake off than others.

Could it be that we might actually do well to consider others’ appraisals? I think the answer to that question is best summed up by this insightful comment, left in response to the post mentioned above: “Everyone has something to learn from their supporters AND their detractors.” While we might prefer to hear only good things, how would we ever improve if people only praised us?

So, how can we decide whether a critique is something to be incorporated or ignored? Here are a few considerations.

Am I able to think about this objectively?
– I find that I’m most sensitive when I first hear a criticism. If I can’t think about it without feeling very emotional (i.e. angry, hurt) I put it away until I can be more objective.

Consider the source.
– Who is the critic? A close friend or family member? A business associate? A stranger on the street? Some Internet troll?

What is the critic’s likely motivation?
– Are they truly trying to help? Or, are they just trying to show off? Or would they fall into the category of “hater,” who will have something negative – or downright mean – to say about pretty much everything?

Regardless of the source and their possible motive: is there a kernel of truth to the criticism?
-If not, dismiss the critique as baseless and put it out of your mind.
-If there is a grain of truth to the evaluation, keep it in perspective.
–So someone gave my drastically different hairstyle a non-approving look. Do I wear a hat for the rest of my life?
–So someone blasts the article I’ve written. Do I never write another word, for fear of disapproval?

If it’s true that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, then I’m likely to receive an unfavorable review way more often than I would prefer. When that happens, I can choose to dwell on hurt feelings, or I can ask…

Realistically, how can I use this feedback to improve?
–Maybe that disapproving look struck me because I already suspected that the hairdo I really wanted turned out to be unflattering. Next time I’ll try to make a better choice.
–Maybe I rushed when I wrote that article – didn’t truly give it my best – and I’m just embarrassed that someone called me out on it. Next time, I’ll put more effort into it.

Criticism can feel like that little voice in our head that whispers the negative things we fear are true about ourselves. To hear someone else speak these thoughts aloud can seem to validate those fears. I have to remind myself that my faults do not define who I am, and acknowledging a shortcoming doesn’t mean I’m failing as a person. It simply means that I recognize that I have room for improvement. In other words, I’m human.

The blog post referred to above is here: Dear Readers

Another article on this topic: 7 Effective Ways to deal with criticism in life and business.

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