The proper way of taking criticism
How do you get your life to flash before your eyes?
I'm sure you're thinking of some life-and-death situations. But we don't have to go to such drastic measures.
In fact, a simple slip-on-ice suffices.
Whenever it snows where I live. I forget about all the hidden ice under the fresh sheet of snow. So like Mr.Bean, I walk without any care in the world.
My feet are taking regular steps like any other season.
But then, when the tip of my heel touches the ice, my whole body knows what's about to come. Before I can even think of how to stop it, I'm already in the air, feet up, looking at the sky.
These are the moments when time indeed slows down. And I start to think about my life and wonder how I got into this icy situation. A million thoughts race through my mind in what feels like an eternity.
And then boom!
My body hits the ground. And I have to take a moment to lie on the floor for my body to recover from this painful experience.
If I were to think of something more painful than slipping on ice, it's getting criticized.
Getting feedback can hurt.
And the pain lingers much longer than a tumble on the ice.
As a result, we tend to stay away from criticism as much as possible.
But I'm here to tell you there is much more to taking criticism. In fact, I'm first going to show you how it reveals your character.
What's the relationship between getting criticism and character?
As you age, you will notice that subtle signs tell the story. And in this case, how we treat criticism is a slight sign of our character.
How we take criticism in the moment and after reveals who we are. Does the feedback improve you, no matter how much it stings? Or do you brush it off, living life like you always do?
How you answer will show whether you are one of two persons. One who is willing to grow despite the pain. Or one who is willing to stay in the comfort womb.
Even though this is subtle, a mature person will see the value of criticism. And the immature person won't. As time progresses, mature people refine themselves since they put the feedback to good use. Whereas the ignorant person stays the same.
But I don't want to be too hard on the immature person.
Because they were never taught or never learned that the pain from criticism is expected.
What are the normal feelings when getting criticized?
When you hear someone mentioning your errors, it's hard not to feel personally attacked.
It's uncomfortable and painful to hear that we aren't doing things right. But let me tell you something, these are the right feelings to have.
Someone who lives honestly and authentically will feel these feelings. Yet, they won't let their ego get in the way of finding value in the feedback.
So the next time you feel hurt by someone's suggestions/corrections. Remind yourself that it's okay to feel discomfort.
That being said.
You should not get depressed or downtrodden. Although it feels like we're being attacked. We must remember that we're not being criticized per se but our methods. We have to be able to distinguish between ourselves and our actions.
That way, we can benefit from the criticism. But, actually, there is a better way to view it. Instead of looking at criticism as a painful experience.
Let's look at it like a mini-initiation.
If you've ever seen or been part of an initiation, you know that it's an emotional roller coaster. There is discomfort, fear, embarrassment, etc. Yet, at the end of it, the person who's gone through it is better for it.
Well, that's pretty much the experience with getting feedback.
So we need to look at criticism as a mini-initiation where we get those feelings of discomfort. But if we push through and don't get held back by our emotions, we will come to understand and appreciate the new insights.
Many people run away or ignore criticism since they find it painful. But at the same time, the fact they can't benefit from it is what keeps them stagnating. So don't be like these people.
And accept the criticism with all its (non-lethal) pain. To learn and grow as a person.
This all sounds nice.
But what if the criticism is unwarranted?
This is a legitimate question.
Do we just take all criticism from anyone, no matter what it is? And the short answer is no.
We have to be able to discern whether the criticism is warranted or not. And if it's not, we still listen to the person dishing out the unwarranted criticism.
And once they are done.
Defend yourself as you see fit.
If you want to be a dick, you can tell the person to save that energy for something more useful. But do what feels right to you.
And a person who did what felt right for him was Hideyoshi, the 16th-century conquerer of Japan.
Hideyoshi gets criticized by a ronin.
Hideyoshi was his most confident in one of the many campaigns he fought.
In this case, he had an enemy castle surrounded and cut off from supplies. So he planned to starve them until they surrendered.
To show his utmost confidence to his trapped enemies. Hideyoshi told his soldiers to bring their wives to the camp. And he put on theatrical performances for all of them.
This was going on for days.
One ronin fighting for Hideyoshi walked by one of these performances and spoke to himself, criticizing Hideyoshi. One of the guards heard this and confronted him.
The ronin did not shy away from his comments.
So the guard reported him immediately. When Hideyoshi heard this, he could not believe the gall of this lowly ronin.
So he told one of his generals to crucify the ronin.
The general went to perform the order until a messenger quickly summoned him to come back to see their master.
The general found Hideyoshi a little more level-headed.
And Hideyoshi informed his general to only behead the ronin since he did not insult him in person. As the general walked out of the sight of his master.
He was summoned back to him again.
Hideyoshi reasoned that since it was only a ronin, he should commit suicide the samurai way. Giving the ronin a respectable form of dying. Again, the general goes out to complete the order but is summoned back.
Hideyoshi finally understood that the criticism of the ronin was genuine.
And Hideyoshi explained to his general that although it seemed like he was wasting time with theatre, it was due to strategic planning. And since the ronin couldn't understand that, he should not be at fault. That being said, to have someone speak bluntly to his superiors, no matter how inferior his position is, is a man that can be trusted to do great things.
So Hideyoshi told his general to employ the ronin and turn him into a general of his army. Which was done, and the ronin proved to be one of the more successful generals of his time.
Hideyoshi had an emotional roller coaster with the criticism from the ronin. But you can see how he allowed the emotions to go through him. And he was able to find value in the situation. So even though the feedback was unfounded, Hideyoshi found a valuable and honest soldier.
Although this story is nice and dandy.
Many of us make the mistake of not getting any value from criticism.
The error of not acting on valuable criticisms.
Even if we get past the emotional roller coaster, we must ensure the pain is not in vain. And to work on the newfound knowledge.
Yet so many of us would prefer no criticism.
Or worse, dishonest praise. Rochefoucauld put's it perfecrly:
"Few people are wise enough to prefer useful criticism to treacherous praise."
If we want to grow as a person, we have to take advantage of the helpful criticism. Yes, it will be painful and all. But if we can learn and grow from the feedback, it's worth it in the long run.
This is worth repeating since the painful feelings can overwhelm us and prevent us from seeing the value.
It's okay to feel pain.
But we can't let it hold us back. And not to hold you back from the rest of your day, let's get to the summary.
How we take criticism in the moment and after reveals who we are. The mature person uses helpful feedback, whereas the immature one ignores it.
It's okay to feel discomfort or hurt when getting criticized. That's normal for all of us.
When getting feedback, we shouldn't get too down on ourselves. Our actions are being 'attacked' and not us.
We should look at getting feedback as mini-initiations. Where there is an emotional rollercoaster, but we become stronger for it.
Listen to the other person respectfully for unwarranted criticism, and then defend yourself.
A simple mistake to make is not to act on the valuable criticisms.
This idea of how to properly take criticism came from Plutarch in his essay called 'On Listening,' which I recommend.
But I digress.
From here on out, you will know how to properly deal with warranted criticism. So as you move forward, you will get wiser by finding the value in the stinging criticism.
And unlike slipping on ice.
The pain from the warranted criticism will be worth it.
Until next time,
The Charismatic Nerd