OPP: You’ve worked hard on an event, and it went over reasonably well. But in the debrief, your supervisor concentrates only on the elements that didn’t go as smoothly as he’d hoped they would.
Every professional faces criticism from time to time. Much as we hate to admit it, we aren’t perfect, and we aren’t everybody’s favorite person. Still, criticism always stings–even the person who has a tough skin occasionally feels the pain that comes from facing their imperfections.
But criticism isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s like a mirror, brick, or a rope. All three have negative and positive aspects.
- Even if in a tiny way, the criticism is a reflection of us, even if only in our response to it
- Helps us find the small faults to correct (i.e. lettuce in the teeth, makeup smudges. etc.)
- Can hurt and surprise you when it hits you (“like a ton of bricks.”)
- Sometimes comes from hardened people (“Hurt people hurt people.”)
- Can build a wall
- Could also build a bridge
- Can be a strong foundation for the future. (Ex: Are you now close with someone who used to be critical of you?)
- It can tie you up inside.
- You can be roped into criticizing others through gossip.
- Can bind hearts together.
- Can remind us to hang onto other more solid elements of our lives (such as our faith/value system.)
All of the above show that criticism is both a positive and negative experience. Here are a few pointers for when it comes your way:
- (Mirror) Ask yourself if there is a grain of truth in the criticism. Is there a small thing you could chage in how you approach a situation going forward? Sometimes a criticism can be a gift to help you grow and redirect you from a bad path.
- (Brick) Can you use the criticism to build a bridge or a foundation of friendship with the critic? Instead of getting defensive, believe the best about them and thank them for caring enough about you to point out something. You may become friends (or at least friendlier) with them!
- (Rope) Let the criticism remind you of your higher purpose and the solid foundation of your principles. If you’ve acted against them, this is a wake up call. If you acted based on your principles, the criticism can reinforce your commitment and diminish the need to be approved by others. Grab the right rope.
Yes, being criticized is something that can overwhelm a professional. But use it to your advantage!
Additional Resource: Michael Hyatt presents the difference between friends, critics, and trolls.