I heard a prolific message recently about living with criticism and it really made me think and self-reflect.
The message touched on how criticism is a good thing when it is constructive, but can be very damaging when it is meant to make someone feel inferior to others. This resonated with me because I have had constructive criticism throughout my entire life. I received it from family members, friends, teachers, dance and cheer coaches; and welcomed it because it made me want to improve.
This is not anything we have not heard before, so you may be wondering, “What is the point?” The point of this post is to talk about the other type of criticism. The other criticism is the type that breaks up relationships, and consistently tears down people instead of building them up. This type of criticism is one I would like to focus on, so whether it is you doing the damage and/or receiving it, it is time to change directions!
Message to Family members who give criticism
When you are criticizing a family member, make sure it is done out of a place of love and meant to improve the person you are criticizing. If you are receiving the criticism, attempt to recognize when someone genuinely cares about you and is aiming to make you better. The Tearing down only happens when “shade is thrown” during the criticism.
For example, if a family member is wearing something inappropriate, you could politely suggest to them quietly; they should consider changing their assemble, along with the reason why. (Always provide a solution to the problem)
What does not need to happen is an exclamation in front of everyone saying, “What in the WORLD are you wearing?!” This question could cause a scene, make them feel embarrassed and less likely to want to hear anything else you have to say from that point on.
Family members know you better than anyone so it could be hard to tone criticism down, but we must if we want to ensure a harmonious relationship with one another.
Message to Friends who give criticism
When giving criticism to friends, be sure to do it with honesty and tact. Do not try to embarrass friends in front of others, just to win a few laughs at their expenses. You may regret it. This can be tricky because friends tend to joke around a lot but a rule of thumb is to simply try to discern the situation before commenting and think before you speak.
If what you are about to say is meant to improve your friend, then by all means say it but if what you are about to say is coming from a place of envy or opinion, hold your tongue and THINK before you speak.
Message to people of influence who give criticism
Parents, Leaders or anyone else who has other people looking up to them, please note that you must be very careful how you provide criticism because of your influence on the ones depending or looking up to you.
I understand that there are times when things need to be said aloud but there is also power in pulling people aside to provide constructive criticism. One of the techniques I learned as a beginning teacher was to not engage an angry student in front of an audience because if you do, they will feel like they needed to argue and defend their honor in front of their classmates.
All of this occured so that the student could save face in front of their peers. The solution: pull the student aside or take them outside to speak with them so that the issue would not escalate in front of others. Would you believe this method usually diffused the situation almost immediately? It did, and I believe it could also work with adults when providing correction or criticism.
I will add to this by saying, “It is not what you say, it is how and why you are saying it.” The why because if what you are saying is not meant to improve the person, why say it at all?
Let us start doing better as we go forward!