Sep 112010
Despair by naktouf

Criticism is a double-edged sword; it has the power to help or destroy you. But what it does to you depends on how well you manage the criticism. There are times when you have to ask for constructive criticism. Yet there are also times where you may find yourself receiving unsolicited criticism. You can’t stop people from thinking or saying what they wish. The only thing you can do is to control your own perception of the criticism and turn it to your advantage. No one likes to be criticised. But there are insights contained within constructive criticism that can help you to succeed. Remember this benefit. Since you can’t run away from criticism, it would be best to learn how to manage it well.

Who is the Critic?

People can say what they want and they often will. But not all criticism is worth listening to. You must always consider the source of any criticism. What qualifies the person to criticise you? Do they have the expertise to critic you? If the person is making baseless assumptions, don’t take what they say too seriously. After all, you know better about your work than they do. If the person is an expert, learn what you can, take what is useful and discard the rest. Experts are also human and have their own biases. Progress comes about when someone has the guts to prove so-called experts wrong.

Control the Delivery

Criticism is hard to listen to by itself. But when it sounds like a personal attack, it is unbearable. Under such conditions, it becomes nothing more than a waste of breath and time on both sides. Accept only constructive criticism wherever you can. At the start of the criticism, you have every right to ask the critic to phrase the delivery in a constructive and objective manner. That way both of you will hear what the other is saying. If your critic refuses to do so, you don’t have to waste your time listening and getting upset. Just walk off. In the event that is not possible, listen as best as you can and tune out whatever is unpleasant.

The Big Picture

Criticism can cause you to lose sight of the big picture and focus excessively on details or the problem. It is worse when your ego and feelings are involved. This will only end up clouding your judgement. Always bear the big picture and your purpose in mind. Remember why you are doing what you are doing. Is it better to be right or to get the job done so you can achieve your purpose? What are the benefits of getting the job done? What happens if you don’t get the job done?

Use What You Can, Discard the Rest

You have the right to decide which parts of the criticism to accept and discard. Your critic can say all he wants, but at the end of the day, you have to make the choice. Discuss the criticism. Don’t just take it. Find out if it is valid. Find out the logic behind it. On what grounds are the criticism made? Most importantly find out if you can use it as a stepping stone to achieve your goals. If so, take what is useful and correct what you have to. Discard everything else that serves no purpose.

Focus on the Solution, Not the Problem

After you have identified the useful bits of the criticism, it is time to deal with the problem or flaw. It is time to improve the areas which you can improve. Fix what you need to fix. The idea is to focus on the solution, not the problem. There is no use trying to deny a problem exists. There is no use brooding over the criticism either. The practical thing to do is to find the solution to fix that problem. When you fix the problem, the basis for the criticism disappears as well.

The Need for Constructive Criticism

The worst thing that can happen to you is to live in an ivory tower. By relying too much on your own judgement alone, you may make needless mistakes and miss important points. No man is an island. There are bound to be times when we need the advice and opinions of others. The best way to encourage people to help you is to show your openness to criticism and eagerness to learn. When you show that you can ask for, listen to and accept advice, you will receive all the help you need to achieve your aims.

Taking Action

People can say all they want, but at the end of the day, you have the right to decide what to do. After all, it is your neck on the line. It is your fat in the fire. Thus you and you alone are responsible for your actions and its outcome. As far as you can, be objective about criticism and focus on the big picture. Take what is useful and discard the rest. In this way constructive criticism will help you to attain your goals when you act on it.

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  2 Responses to “How to Use Criticism to Succeed”

  1. Great reading… In short, I would say this: criticism can be a great tool to improve something. If for example, I reach peak development of some skill… like writing skill, the only way I can improve my writing is with the help of constructive criticism by my readers… However, I believe that most of the criticism is useless. Why? Because it is much easier to criticize than to do something. So people prefer to criticize…

    Criticism will not be correct, if one’s ego to interfere. For example, if I write an excellent article and some say he’s bad, he can do because of his ego (“MY article was better”). Or the opposite, I can write a bad article, and when someone point out the errors in the article, I can say: “YOU are liar, MY article is not so bad.”

    • Thanks for the compliment Marko and you are perfectly right. It is much easier to criticize someone else than to offer constructive advice to improve things.

      The key I believe is to as far as possible remain objective; to note what is said, who said it and to see if it can indeed be used. If not, discard it.

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