Thursday, April 5, 2018

Dealing With Criticism

  “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” 

~Aristotle

I'm a very thick-skinned individual.  It wasn't always that way, I used to push back when pushed.  But I learned a long time ago that the only thing I accomplished by reacting to criticism was that it made my critics happy, and made me unhappy.  And it's really hard to focus when you're angry. 

You'd be hard pressed to find something you could say to me today that would get a reaction.  But that took a while to learn.  As a matter of fact, early in my career I punched a guy in the mouth and very nearly got fired.  These days I'd most certainly be fired.  The world has changed.  In some ways I think that's a good thing, but in others I'm not so sure.  One thing is for certain--there are a lot of people today that have never learned to deal with criticism, or opposing points of view.  People joke about "the offended generation" but it's no joke.  We've done such a good job at shielding our children from everything, they've learned no coping skills of their own--and then they get out in the real world ill-prepared for the realities of life.  But that's a related, but somewhat different topic.  This is about dealing with criticism specifically.

When I was younger, I began to recognize criticism for what it was, and I learned to filter it right out.  I'd count that ability as one of my best skills because it's uncommon.  People often marvel at my productivity--I do get a lot done.  I work full time, I have a family and all the things that go along with that.  But I'm also active in my Lodge and Valley, I write books and novels, blog, write articles, do interviews, etc.  Part of that productivity is organization, but another big factor in being able to accomplish all these things is because I don't get bogged down in drama.  I don't waste energy on things that don't matter--mostly criticisms.  The only time I let criticism bother me is when I'm not getting any criticism.  A wise man told me many years ago that if you're not being criticized, you're not doing anything noteworthy. 

Now critics will always tell you when they are criticizing you that they mean well by it.  That's very rarely true.  There's very little "constructive criticism."  That's the kind of criticism that Winston Churchill spoke of when he said, “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” Criticism can be a good thing when it points somewhere you're not looking.  That's when a trusted friend, coworker, or boss pulls you off to the side and offers a little advice.  That's useful.  But it's also very rare.  Criticism is usually wielded like a weapon.  Especially today.


What's the best way to handle criticism?

Ignore it.  Most definitely listen and weigh it for merit, because sometimes there is something to be learned from criticism, but as I said, that's indeed rare.  Usually, criticism is unfair, and the best thing to do is to totally disregard it.  One of the worse things you can do is to let it stop you from moving forward.  Don't let it paralyze you from continuing to make progress.  If you let critics bench you, they have won.  That's exactly what they want.  When I'm criticized (almost daily) what helps me to deflect it is to look at the person being critical.  What is their motive?  What do they hope to gain by criticizing you?

Once you understand their motive, it's sure going to be a lot easier to deflect that critic.  More often than not, it's envy or jealousy.  You're doing something well, and people are noticing.  You're getting attention for the things you're accomplishing, and they aren't.  They want your job.  They want your position.  They think they could do things better than you can.  But one thing you'll quickly see about critics--they don't even try to do something better than you.  They don't work to improve themselves.  They don't try to get that better job.  They don't put in the effort to do something that will stand out and be noticed.  That is way too much work, so what they do is criticize you.

It's not easy, but the best way to battle criticism is with confidence.  If you believe in what you're doing, and you know you're doing a good job--don't let anything derail you.  It's a lesson I have to re-learn every so often.  

But remember--even if it gets to you every once it awhile, don't let it show.  Nothing makes a critic more miserable than not getting a reaction.

~Todd E. Creason, 33°

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