Criticism Is Misunderstood – I Have Proof (Pt. I)

Criticism (of the constructive variant) is the nicest thing you can give someone.  Receiving criticism in the hot seat changed my life.  I love criticism. I want you to love criticism too. But currently, it is widely misunderstood.

Do you want proof that criticism is misunderstood by the masses?  I’ve got it for you right now.  This happened just three days ago.

In a recent #blogchat on Twitter, there was a tweet going around that was being retweeted and agreed with enthusiastically and nearly unanimously.  I think it was the most retweeted statement in the entire #blogchat session.  It bothered me.  I vehemently disagreed with it.

The setting: Four bloggers were having their blogs reviewed and critiqued/criticized by the many #blogchat participants.

The bothersome comment: “A standing ovation for those who bravely volunteered to have their blogs reviewed.” (paraphrased unless my memory is perfect)

My response: “Why?  I would PAY to have this.  This is a privilege!”

In my mind, it was as if these individuals had been given a $1,000 check and were being praised for cashing it.  We should have congratulated them instead. They were the most fortunate of all bloggers that night – getting constructive criticism from a multitude of intelligent bloggers. Companies spend money on surveys for a reason – feedback is valuable.

I understand that it can be difficult to be told that something related to you is imperfect, but it is no reason to receive a trophy or standing ovation.  This minor discomfort is displaced by the avalanche of honor and usefulness of the criticism.  The blogchat session showed me how twisted peoples’ perception of constructive criticism is.

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

Most people are familiar with the phrase, “love your neighbor as yourself.”  But how many of them understand what it means?  Love is broader than romance and deeper than “being nice.”  Sometimes love might literally mean slapping someone in the face. Loving others is acting in their best interest, even if nobody enjoys it.

And how do you love yourself?  You take care of yourself.  You work hard to stay in shape and eat well to take care of your body. You push yourself to succeed in areas of importance.  You brush your teeth and bathe.  You don’t say, “I’m fine without food,” when you’re starving to death.  Don’t think you’re loving others when you tell them everything is fine (or fail to say anything) when their life is a mess.

There have been many times that I have taken criticism of others too far.  Specifically, I am still learning how to criticize others in a fruitful and loving way. My personality leans towards “brutal honesty” and sometimes I forget that my love of criticism is not shared amongst the entire human race.  I have met very few people that openly enjoy being criticized.

A Personal Example

One time, I criticized a person for how they were living – we’ll call her Jane.  I did it because I cared about Jane, but the way in which I did it offended her.  When she pointed out my harsh criticism as being unacceptable, I told her about my belief that criticism was important and essential for growth.

Jane: “So what, you want me to just say what I think about you?”

Me: “Yes!”

Criticizing woman

Ok Jane...I get it.

After I finally convinced her that she could “let me have it,” she did not hold back!  She told me that I often came across as arrogant, abrasive, and a know-it-all.  She said I seemed to think that I was perfect and had all of the answers.  You can imagine I was immediately defensive on the inside.  On the outside, I told her that I would think about it so as to avoid “instant hypocrite” status.  😛

Once I got over myself (an important life skill), I realized that I needed to listen to what was being said about me as it was vitally important feedback.  When I decided to have an open mind about the truth of her statements, I learned a lot from them.  I didn’t see myself in that way, but at least one other person did.  Since then, I have been much more careful about how I criticize others (I still mess up) so that I don’t come across in this way.

Personal Development

Personal development is dead a popular and important concept.  It is the idea that we can improve ourselves through learning and gaining experience.  Possibly the most important source of information that we can learn about ourselves from is other people.  We are so familiar with ourselves that we don’t realize all of the flaws we possess.  Not only is it difficult for us to see them when we’re looking, but sometimes we subconsciously blind ourselves to our imperfections because we aren’t comfortable with them.

When a friend takes the time to point out a potential life hazard or an inconsistency they see in our beliefs and actions, they are doing us a great favor.

Another reason to seek the opinion of others is perception.  You might not be arrogant, but what if everyone around you perceives you as such?  Habits and mannerisms convey a large amount of information that we’re not always intending to broadcast.  When we communicate verbally or non-verbally and the interpretation is incorrect, there is a misunderstanding.

Understanding Misunderstanding

Misunderstanding is perception failing to match reality.

  • It happens in sports – Tom Brady was perceived and selected as 6th round talent and he already has three Super Bowl wins.
  • It happens with Justin Beiber – Justin is perceived by teenage girls as a super-human when he is just a little boy with some musical talent and interesting hair.
  • It happens with people in conversation – you think she’s stuck up, but she’s just shy.

Misunderstanding happens on a daily basis, and it is yet another reason why criticism is very important.  You might find that criticism reveals a misconception that you had about the person.  In that case, your view of that person is made more accurate.  If your criticism was based on the correct perception, then the person has a chance to benefit from an outside perspective.

I hope that I have made a case for criticism being important and beneficial.  Criticism is a sensitive area for many people, and that is why we need to know how to do it effectively.  The next post – part II – will be on how to criticize others effectively and lovingly.  I hope you’ll stick around to criticize it.

How do you deal with giving and/or receiving criticism?  Do you like it?

Part Two: How To Criticize Others Without Ruining Everything

Oh, There's More!

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