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Constructive Criticism

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Posted 20 September 2016 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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Constructive Criticism

Most people don't like to take criticism. Most people hate being corrected and would like to continue as they are.

Taking constructive criticism is a vital, but often neglected part of growing up: Your ultimate success requires that you develop the ability to TAKE criticism in an adult manner.

Many people fail. They fail to take any form of criticism. Whenever they hear a criticism of their performance they lose their cool and become highly emotional. They won't listen to criticism since, they figure, "Who the hell are you to tell me I am wrong?"

What should our attitude be to the person who criticises us? What should we say to the person who tells us that we have done it wrong?

As usual, we have options. When someone tells us we have done something wrong:

  • Should we get angry with the other person?
  • Should we get upset? Should we get defensive?
  • Should we lose our self-confidence and get depressed?
  • Should we retaliate and find something the other person does wrong and bring that into the conversation?

No. We should do none of these things. We should instead, thank the person for their information, and then work their critical comments through the following five questions.

  1. Is their criticism of me true, or at least partially true?
  2. If it is true, how do we know it is true? What is the specific evidence?
  3. If it is true, what would that mean for the achievement of my goals?
  4. What can I learn from this negative feedback?
  5. What changes do I need to make to my current plans and actions to get myself back on track?

When another person criticises us or our performance, then the proper response is to THANK the other person for their critical comments.

I will say that again because, to many people, it sounds strange. When another person criticises us, we should THANK THE OTHER PERSON FOR THEIR CRITICAL COMMENTS.

Remember that you don't have to agree with the other person. And you don't have to like hearing that you are wrong. But you should at least, take the message into your mental computer and run it through the five questions to see if there is anything in it. Here are the five questions again:

  1. Is it true, or not?
  2. How do we know it is true, or not? What is the evidence?
  3. If it is true, what would it mean to my future?
  4. If it is true, what can I learn from this?
  5. If it is true, what changes do I need to make?

Remember that the criticism of you may not be justified, or be accurate, or fair. It could be that the others criticism of you is itself faulty. It could be their criticism of you fails the first two test questions. When you ask yourself, Is their criticism of me true, or not? Then your answer may be, "No. Their criticism of me is not true." Then you ask question 2. How do you know it is (not) true? You know their criticism of you is not true because you remember distinctly what actually happened. If you can honestly say that their criticism of you is not true, then you need not make any changes to your actions. You can smile serenely and carry on as you have been doing. But please do ensure that you do give the criticism of you a "fair hearing". Take it on the chin. Take the criticism straight and don't react egotistically to it. Take the criticism straight and judge it as dispassionately as you can.

If it is true, then thank the other person and make the necessary adjustments in your methods. If it is not true, then thank the other person for their comments and keep doing what you are doing, with no change.

But the point I am trying to make here is that you should be open to honest criticism and even thank the other person for giving you the criticism.

By the way, I once heard a boss of mine actually do that in a conversation, and it had a terrific effect. At the time, I was a young police officer, and my Sergeant Dickie Williams was in the cell block, booking-in a very obnoxious man who had been arrested for an assault. The man was very drunk and was acting horribly. Dickie was doing his best to book him into the system and the man was being verbally offensive: The prisoner said to Dickie. "You four-eyed bastard Williams. You are a *****!" Dickie said, "I appreciate the feedback. But could you be a little more specific?"

The prisoner was left speechless!

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