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Be Open to Criticism and Feedback of All Kinds from All Sources
Article Number 2: Be Open to Criticism and Feedback of All Kinds from All Sources
In my previous article I discussed the means in which someone can get started on a goal. I invited feedback and criticism, and while I did not get as much blatant and constructive feedback as I wanted, I did get some, including a bit of a critiquing that, had I been a more sensitive fellow or just in the wrong mood, I may have had my feelings hurt and become defensive over it. Thankfully, I wasn’t in a bad mood and not feeling particularly vulnerable or sensitive, I was able to read all of the comments I received with good faith and I was able to learn from each and every comment made. More importantly than the comments and the article itself were the things that it got me to reflect upon in my current life and my current disposition.
I realized I that in the past, and even rather currently, wasn’t able to handle a lot of setbacks, a lot of comments, or even the voice of my own inner critic very well at all. I lost my cool with a relative over something as trivial as washing dishes. I voiced my frustration in a manner not exactly professional or dignified over some paperwork requirements that I had failed to meet. I swear, on occasion, particularly, when cut-off in traffic. I was disappointed in my last article when someone pointed out that, while they may have enjoyed the read, they really didn’t learn much of anything that they had not already learned from years of reading motivational literature. My initial response is to say something like:
It may be just as well to point out that very little in regards to behavior and feelings can be said that hasn’t already been said countless times over throughout history. A certain figure reflected that there “was nothing new under the sun” about 3,000 years ago. It’s really just a matter of finding the right wording that clicks for you. While not meaning to alienate non-Christian readers, it can be pointed out that there’s a lot of motivational literature out there directed toward Christians, when, in fact, the namesake of Christianity said it in the KISS [Keep It Simple Sweetheart] format: “With the faith the size of a mustard seed” you could move a mountain, and with enough belief any door will open (just knock) and anything you seek you shall find (just be sure to seek). But, it seems, as people we need it spelled out somehow, for us, in a way that “clicks” for each one of us, individually. One could argue, with very little worry of contention, that one of the Christ’s greatest messages was that one should believe in, passionately, what they are doing.
The reality is that what I’ve just written in italics, is a defensive, reactionary, ego-attached rationalization. The best comment and response would, in fact, be something like:
You know what? She’s absolutely right. So what can I say or how can I deliver what I have to say in a manner that makes a difference? How can I express what I want to express without betraying the very nature and essence of what I want to say while engaging my reader/listener/viewer in a manner in which they get great value from what I have to say? Thank you, my friend, for that great bit of feedback. I appreciate it!
I realized, also, that many of the fights and arguments and volatile disagreements of all natures that I had ever been involved in could have been avoided or at least, deflated, if for a moment, away the needs of the ego and the petty fragile self, I could have heard the painful and angry comments for what they really were—exclamations of feeling hurt from the other party complete with, at least a partial, explanation of how I was contributing to their hurt.
We need to listen more, and right along with the act of listening, regardless of how critically, we need to also be able to invite criticism and all manners of approval and disapproval directed our way. It benefits the other party to be able to express their feelings to us (whether those feelings are about us or not) and it benefits us, if we are truly open to improvement, to hear where we could do better, better present ourselves, and in the highest ideal, be able to work towards a positive relationship and a win-win situation.
To better handle the criticisms that others direct our way, it is best that we listen in an objective manner--better still if we have an understanding of the Buddhist approach to being the objective listener to our own thoughts.
The amount of leaders, thinkers, and writers who suggest we invite criticism is staggering. The reality is this is just about the only honest way to find some faults and, more importantly, find better ways to do things.
Ancient wisdom recognizes that we must truly be open to correction for our errors. Proverbs 12:1 in the Bible consists of this matter-of-fact and in-your-face statement: “To learn you must love Discipline. It is stupid to hate correction.”
As it turns out one quick perusal into a Christian-faith-based website clearly suggests that the means to dealing with criticism is identical to basic run-of-the-mill active listening. Imagine that. You’ve also got to expect to receive criticism, and it’s best to welcome it if you can. There’s only one way, according to Aristotle to avoid criticism, “To avoid criticism: say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
But you know that you must do something, because you’ve received enough of a calling to be reading this and to be working on improving yourself—because you want to have the tools and abilities to achieve more and somehow make a difference, so saying, doing, and being nothing are out of the question.
To do it better, though, you need to be able to admit when you’ve missed the mark. Look at what Winston Churchill had to say about the importance of criticism:
“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to the development of an unhealthy state of things. If it is heeded in time, danger may be averted; if it is suppressed, a fatal distemper may develop." –Winston Churchill in New Statesman , 7 January 1939
So, ultimately, expect and welcome criticism. Don’t as Emerson suggested, make the “vulgar mistake” of believing yourself some kind of persecuted martyr the next time someone rebukes or disagrees with you.
Instead, engage in a dialogue and welcome their point of view as a possible means of growth—for both of you, ideally!
To sum up, remember the following:
- If something someone says upsets you, explain that you need get away and do so before making a regretful response. (If the offense, real or perceived, is online follow the same advice, do not write a response and hit “send” or “post” just yet).
- Be willing to accept the possibility that they are absolutely right. Likewise, if they are wrong, is it worth it for the sake of peace or self-benefit to prove them wrong? Look at it objectively and you may find that you are both right or both wrong (or a little bit of both.)
- Be open to ways to improve and to grow by inviting criticism and not avoiding it, and when given valuable information be sure to thank the person providing it.
That’s all for now. Until next time, keep moving forward.