Nobody likes to be criticized. Criticism is one of those things people wish would just go away, but inevitably find it hard to avoid. But avoiding criticism for the rest of your life is impossible. Someone, somewhere is eventually going to find fault with something you do. However, despite a reasonable aversion to it, criticism is actually a good thing.
Don’t Let Criticism Bother You
The big problem with criticism is how hard it can be to take. This is especially true of any critiques of actions you’re proud of or deeply-held viewpoints. I’ve had to deal with a lot of criticism from posts I’ve written for this blog. Each time it happens, I try to evaluate their opinions to see if I’ve made a mistake somewhere. Sometimes they make a good point. Other times, they seem to criticize for no discernible reason.
It can be especially difficult if the other person is intent on using it to harm you. For example, a few years ago I walked up to a girl in a bar to start up a conversation. Her response was harsh. In a shrill voice she declared, “I don’t find you the least bit interesting or attractive”.
I knew her intent was to get me to put my tail between my legs and walk away. If she had been nicer about it, I would have left her alone. I maintained eye contact and continued talking normally forcing her to be the one to walk away. Not letting what she said faze me, I walked up and started a great conversation with another girl instead.
Her outburst was hard to take at first, but I could shrug it off. This is because what she said isn’t really criticism. After all, she knew nothing about me.
This illustrates one of the biggest things you need to understand about criticism. Either it has some truth to it or it doesn’t. When there isn’t any truth to it, just ignore it. It’s those instances, when there might be some truth to it, that you really should focus your time on.
You Need Criticism Sometimes
One of the obvious benefits of criticism is that it can tell you when you’re wrong. Being wrong about something sucks, but no one telling you when you’re doing something wrong is even worse. Having people around you who will tell you when to reexamine your thinking is important.
Working without criticism can lead to much bigger problems such as groupthink. This is when a group of people all reach consensus on an idea without careful evaluation or discussing alternative viewpoints. This can lead to a large group of people making poor choices simply because no one wants to criticize the consensus.
One way groups get around this problem is to designate someone before a meeting to play devil’s advocate. Basically this means someone is pre-assigned to criticize the main consensus of the group. This brings up alternative viewpoints and allows others who might have doubts to voice their opinions.
Great People Are Criticized
Another thing to keep in mind is how close prestige and criticism are. For example, have you ever disliked someone famous all your friends seem to like? I think everyone has experienced this at one time or another. Perhaps you think the person is untalented or doesn’t deserve all the attention they’re getting. Whatever the reason, it irritates you that this person gets any attention at all.
Disliking someone famous everyone else seems to like isn’t anything new. For every book praising someone‘s work, there is another deploring their actions. It’s almost as if there’s a rite of passage for famous or influential people to experience criticism.
The reason these people get criticized is because they are getting so much positive attention from others. This is why many popular movie stars often get such harsh treatment from some people. The same thing happens to those who have a large influence over others such as politicians, CEOs and religious leaders. Their influence attracts a lot of criticism.
Now look at the opposite. The ones who don’t draw any unique attention or have no influence over others don’t draw any criticism at all. Someone who espouses the same viewpoints as a contentious politician won’t attract as much criticism as that politician simply because they don’t have the influence behind it. It’s like a crazy person who spouts off nonsense on top of a box on a street corner. No one is paying attention to him so there’s no reason to argue with him.
There Is No 100% Consensus
With all the information swirling around the world at the moment, you can seem to find someone to back up just about any opinion you can possibly think of. In fact, I’d say the only thing everyone in the world would agree on is that you can never reach 100% consensus. Despite the obvious paradox of that statement, there’s some truth to it.
Criticism is natural and not something anyone should avoid or become angry about. Too often I see people getting way too upset about an offhand critical comment. I include myself on this list too. However, criticism should not be something to fear. I know it can be hard to take, but the alternatives would be worse.
Have you ever been criticized unnecessarily? Do you know someone famous that other people love, but you can’t stand?
photo credit: jontintinjordan