Facing Criticism -by Tamra Brathwaite
Are you fed-up of people making you feel inferior based on their point of view on what you do, what you say or think, and who you are? Those comments that make you want to blow up and burst into a blazing ball of fire to devour whatever stands in your way. The moments when you feel like you deserve the right to be left alone and nobody's opinion really matters. I can imagine!
You are engulfed by a flood of criticism, "the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes." Nobody never really wants to be "wrong". Everyone hopes to be "right". But you know, we live in an imperfect world filled with imperfect beings, and therefore, the thoughts of others may truly matter. That is ONLY when the criticism is intended to improve the outcome of the situation or the person being criticized. A lot of us find it hard to accept criticism and most often think that it will bring us down than rather build us up. But there is a beautiful flip side of criticism which not too many of us are aware of. If we take the time to understand the concept of constructive criticism I think we will appreciate it better. But another major problem too is probably not that we don't believe in criticism, but the mere fact that many of us don't know how to deal with it.
Let me assure that when you face criticism it may bring you long way ahead of others who don't.
Constructive criticism is "the process of offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about the work of others, usually involving both positive and negative comments, in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one." It involves "evaluative judgments" which can be "painful or difficult to give or receive". However it can bring about "constructive growth in relationships or productivity", if handled appropriately. Constructive criticism is more effect when all parties involved interact both as a "critic" and the "criticized". Those who criticize need to welcome criticism of his or her own behavior or reasoning as well. By accepting criticism a person can create an atmosphere for appropriate criticism to take place.
Here are some tips to the "Critic and the Criticized":
To the Critic
- Feel confident that the feedback you wish to give is appropriate, practical and useful to all parties involved. If done out of self interest, it would most likely create a destructive mob of expressions.
- As you develop a strategy to propose your criticism take into consideration the perspective of the person being criticized. You cannot give constructive criticism if you do not understand or at least try to understand the "criticized position".
- Do not attack the person's character, but rather refer to their behavior.
- Before offering judgement take time to describe the questionable behaviors you see or have experienced.
- Focus criticism on a specific situation rather than general abstract behavior.
- Direct your criticism to the present rather than past experiences.
- Tell what you think or feel about the person's behavior, using "I" statements.
- Create an avenue for collaborative discussion of consequences rather than give directive advice, unless you are asked to do so.
- Be open minded. Keep judgement tentative rather than presenting your analysis or explanation of the other's behavior.
- Make evaluation in such way that will allow the person to think and make decision on their own. People tend to comply more with solutions which they make. The last thing they need is to feel burden down by your feedback.
- Give criticism proportionately (step by step) in order to maintain a better understanding between the parties involved. Ensure the person is following you.
- Let your criticism be on behaviors that the other person can change.
- Reinforce positive actions and invite possible change.
- Allow the other person to present criticism to you.
1. Recognize the value of constructive criticism. Criticism that promotes relationships and productivity.
2. Engage in perspective taking or role reversal. Take time to understand the perspective of the person offering criticism.
3. Acknowledge criticism that focuses on your behavior. You can only begin to transform your behavior when you accept the flaws.
4. Listen actively and respectufully. Although criticism can be painful to take in, unless you seek to accurately understand the criticism you may improve.
a. Paraphrase what the other is saying.
b. Ask questions to increase understanding.
c. Check out nonverbal displays (check your perceptions).
5. Avoid becoming defensive. Resist any tendency to want to dismiss criticism or retaliate.
6. Welcome criticism. Use the criticism appropriate for improvement.
7. Maintain your interpersonal power and authority to make your own decisions. "Criticism, when directed at one's "person," may weaken one's resolve. Focus the other's criticism on your actions. Seek ownership of solutions."
8. Find ways constructively make changes to the behavior that prompted the criticism. Follow up with positive actions!
9. Insist on valid criticism. Valid criticism: (a) addresses behaviors, (b) is timely, and (c) is specific.
10. Communicate clearly how you feel and think about the criticism and receiving criticism. Use "I" messages.
These tips were inspired by Gregg Walker, Dept. of Speech Communication, Oregon State University
"A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful."
- Proverbs 28:13
Destructive criticism has a negative impact on conflict, self-efficiency and task performance and therefore one must know how to deal with it.
1. Simply disagree with it. In disagreeing remain calm and watch your tone of voice and other non-verbal behaviors. Since this kind of criticism is more likely to escalate tensions during interaction this must be carefully considered. By staying calm and refusing to be provoked by the criticism, you remove its destructive power.
2. If you do not fully understand the criticism, look up what it really means. Then you may simple, "agree in part, agree in probability or agree based on principle".
- Agree in part- means that you find at least one accurate part of the criticism. Example:
Response: “Yes, it’s true, I don’t have a job”.
- Agree in probability-sometimes you can still say something may be possible even though you really think the chances are likely to be a million to one. So you agree in probability. Example: Criticism: “If you don’t floss your teeth, you’ll get gum disease and be sorry for the rest of your life.” Response: “You’re right I may get gum disease.”
- Agree in principle. In that case, you acknowledge the person's logic without agreeing with what they say. For example, Criticism: “That’s the wrong tool for that job. A chisel like that will slip and mess up the wood. You ought to have a gouge instead.” Response: “You’re right; if the chisel slips it will really mess up the wood”.
It is vital to remember to avoid presenting criticism out of anger. Whether you're giving or receiving the criticism. You must try to remain calm and treat the other person with respect and understanding. If you feel like you would loose self-control or say something damaging just...walk away.