We live in a harsh and judgmental world where people are quick to point out the faults and imperfections of others yet seem oblivious to their own. Some misguided souls believe they have a moral obligation and civil duty to help you to be a better person by telling you what a failure you really are first and then offering suggestions as to how you can improve. They are so brazen as to cleverly present negative comments under the guise of being constructive. But constructive criticism is an oxymoron designed to impose shame, embarrassment or humiliation on the other party without the repercussions of the purveyor being labeled mean-spirited or rude. Some are quick to criticize as a way of taking the focus off of their own shortcomings in an attempt to make themselves appear better, smarter or more qualified than the other. And while some may actually believe in their hearts that they are performing a noble act, their methods are skewed and faulty. Denigrate first, rebuilt second. If one’s true intent is to offer suggestions for betterment, why not skip the annihilation phase and move straight into the supportive role?
So what is the solution to criticism? As always, one must first examine their own behavior as all change begins within. If you are the one imposing disparagement upon another, STOP. Make a conscious decision that rather than focus on the negative aspect of a person’s performance or attitudes, you’ll offer helpful suggestions from the get go. If I’m painting our living room and making a mess in doing so, I’m much rather my husband say to me, “This is a tough job. Can I offer a suggestion that might make it easier for you?” rather than having him point out what a sloppy painter I am and then tell me how I should be doing it.
If you are on the receiving end of criticism, the “OK” response is a perfect solution. When someone comments negatively on a task you are embarking on or a personality issue, a natural response is to defend and attack. We seek to justify our actions and/or prove ourselves right while demoting the other party so as to restore balance in the relationship . However, this approach is rarely effective as it is ego-driven and puts both parties on the defensive. Instead, simply reply with “OK”. This concise one-word response acknowledges the other person’s comment without agreeing with it or feeling compelled to engage in a debate about it. Additionally, there is no need to defend one’s self or actions, to make excuses for or to attack the criticizer. It diffuses a potentially explosive situation and the fallout.
It is important to remain emotionally attached to what the other person is saying, to listen without feeling, to be an objective observer. There is much that one can learn from a negative review. When we train ourselves to seek value in every situation and seemingly negative comment we stand to walk away from such an encounter a wiser and more enlightened being. Did I make a mistake, was I at fault? Could I have done better, acted kinder, been more thoughtful? Did I give 100% of myself to the task at hand? Is there any validity to what the other person has observed in me? If so, how can I improve? Within each of these questions there lies the potential for personal growth and improvement.
As for chronic criticizers: it is important to set strict boundaries with them. Do not permit them to manipulate or intimidate you. Be fair and firm and remove yourself from their presence when necessary.
In any event, one can learn to be “OK” with criticism and not allow it to negatively impact their life or relationship with the other party. Examine it for any potential truths, then let it go and just be “OK”.
Luke 6:37 “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.”
Luke 6:41 “Why do you notice the sawdust in your brother’s eye but not the plank in your own?”
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