Norman Vincent Peale said, “The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”
How often do we seek praise over criticism? While no one likes being criticized, a critique can be a gift, depending on how you see it and what you do with it.
Here are four ways to make criticism build you up instead of tearing you down.
Create Emotional Space Between Yourself and the Comment
Criticism can hurt your feelings and make you angry. It’s easy to get defensive and lash back, so you must create some emotional space between you and the critical comment. Why? To gain objectivity.
Becoming offended immediately gets you nowhere.
The philosopher Epictetus said, “If someone in the street were entrusted with your body, you would be furious. Yet you entrust your mind to anyone around who happens to insult you and allow it to be troubled and confused. Aren’t you ashamed of that?”
Don’t let someone take charge of your thoughts and feelings with their words of criticism or praise! Don’t allow yourself to be easily manipulated like an animal being led around on a leash.
Look at it this way: someone’s opinion only has the power you give it; you decide what impact their words will have on your life. You get to decide how YOU will feel about the matter; letting other people manipulate or control you with their words is dangerous and unwise.
Creating emotional space between you and your self-worth and what people say is a powerful tool to help you navigate the minefield of social opinion and the societal pressure that can often lead to disapproval and rejection if you don’t conform or comply with their views and beliefs.
Let Life Educate You
Transform criticism into a learning experience; let life educate you. Learning from every experience is empowering because you maintain control of your life; no one else gets the privilege of being behind the wheel.
Must you agree with what people or pay lip service to their “intelligence?” No. But you can be grateful because every interaction is a teaching moment. When someone criticizes you, it’s a great learning opportunity.
Because of the emotional space you’ve created between yourself and their comment, you can evaluate what they’ve said to see if there’s anything useful to learn. This growth mindset transforms encounters from defeats to victories that support your life.
Be Patient With the Process
Pride is a stumbling block to learning; humility goes a long way.
No one is perfect or has “arrived; we’re all works in progress. Instead of feeling attacked, embarrassed, or belittled when someone criticizes you, remind yourself that you’ve embraced this process of examining what people say because you’re committed to growing and improving.
Embrace the process of creating space and evaluating what people say because you might find something beneficial. Listen, evaluate, keep what’s helpful, and delete what isn’t; grow and move forward.
Criticism and Creativity
Criticism can create new perspectives that lead the way for innovation. What if you saw criticism as feedback instead of rejection? Truth is, you choose whether to accept or reject criticism; the final say is yours.
For example, when someone raises objections or points out problems in a proposal or presentation, their comments might ignite your thinking to see new ideas or solutions. Why not give yourself the opportunity for expanded thinking?
According to Harvard Business Review, there’s a sweet spot in criticism that recognizes the flaws in something without discarding the idea altogether. They refer to this process as “yes, but, and.” In this scenario, the “yes, but” portion presents the issue with a presented idea, while the “and” part presents potential solutions.
This approach allows leeway for criticism to be evaluated to find solutions and improvements before discounting it altogether because we feel offended or rejected.
Ideally, it would be nice if people were more considerate of other’s feelings and perspectives when doling out their constructive criticism. It would make communication more effective and create better outcomes. But even when that isn’t the case, we can make the most of the situation by embracing this process.
Being criticized can be positive, even if the critic has questionable intentions. When we choose to evaluate their comments to see if there’s anything we can learn for our growth or improvement instead of taking them personally, we’ve created a productive encounter and reduced the sting of criticism.
This approach to criticism is freeing and empowering! Criticism can be something that shuts you down or something you use to unlock your best life!
References: 1 Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2019/07/why-criticism-is-good-for-creativity.