The Value of Criticism
“Learn how to take criticism seriously, but not personally.” – Hillary Clinton
The above words of wisdom may sound easy, but putting them into practice- not so much so. If you are like me (and I suspect, most people), you don’t like being criticized. I don’t think anyone truly enjoys listening to all the things they could be doing better, what they need to work on changing or why their thought process is wrong. It used to be, when I got criticized I would either get red in the face while defending myself or stone-faced while quietly thinking of everything wrong, with the person criticizing me. It took me 25 years…fine, fine…40 years to learn that criticism is actually something I should WANT. Yes, you should want criticism. When it’s constructive and well meaning, criticism is actually a very valuable tool for your personal and professional growth. It’s an outside perspective of yourself that even the most self-aware people do not have. If you truly want to grow, listening to and applying the criticism you receive is a skill you must master.
The next time you are feeling criticized, instead of defending yourself or questioning the agenda of the criticizer, ask yourself three questions:
- 1. What is the message behind the criticism?
- 2. Is the message something that I should consider applying?
- 3. What is the risk of ignoring the criticism?
If you ask yourself these questions, you are taking the emotion out of the situation and looking at it objectively. And when you are able to be objective, you can truly see the value in the message being given to you.
Most people aren’t trying to make you feel bad or stupid. They are simply trying to communicate something they feel you should know. And in many cases, communicating that to you may have been difficult for them to do. Whether it feels like it or not, they are doing you a favor. They are giving you an opportunity to improve yourself. Listen, really listen, to what they are saying and run it through the questions above. In most cases, when you are being objective, you will be able to find some value in every bit of criticism you receive.
Am I a master at taking criticism? Absolutely not. Do I take it like a champ? Eh, not so much. Am I learning to get better? Yes. It’s an everyday exercise.
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