“Criticism is like medicine. It’s poison unless carefully administered at the right dose.”
Good morning from Mammoth Lakes, California. What a beautiful places this is. Here for a friend’s wedding.
I was having a conversation last week with a friend via text and this friend from way back likes to (often unsolicited) tell me how my life should be run. Thing is, I use to ask him about it. And while I update him on all I’m doing he continues to be heavily critical and seems to enjoy being that way as he thinks it’s “for my own good”.
This is very dangerous territory. Not good. Not good at all. It got me thinking about something on my drive to Mammoth yesterday.
Be VERY careful with what people label as “Constructive Criticism”.
Dictionary Definition of “Criticism”:
- the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.
Example: “he received a lot of criticism”
2. the analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work.
Example: “alternative methods of criticism supported by well-developed literary theories”
Dictionary definition of “Constructive”:
serving a useful purpose; tending to build up.
Example: “constructive criticism”
Dictionary definition of “Vitriol”:
Cruel and bitter criticism.
Example: “her mother’s sudden gush of fury and vitriol”
There’s a very dubious line between Constructive Criticism and pure Vitriol.
We need to become hyper-aware of this line.
Vitriol does the exact opposite of what Constructive Criticism intends to do.
Often times people cover Vitriol with a camouflage “Constructive” tarp.
You must understand the difference between Constructive Criticism and Vitriol when this happens because believe it or not sometimes even the abuser doesn’t.
Your goals, dreams hopes, drive, success, and anything else about you depends on recognizing the difference between Vitriol and Constructive Criticism.
While famed American Idol Judge Simon Cowell often gave brash, direct reviews to singing wannabe pop-stars on the hit show “American Idol”, he provided great entertainment to people….and often times he was very much right.
I’ll be the first to say Simon’s honesty was spot on in many if not most of his critiques. This type of honesty can be good for people who are somewhat clueless about their own abilities and need a reality check. Not to mention on that show, in particular, they opened themselves up to it. So it goes with the territory. They signed up for it.
However, Simon Cowell (despite how much I do like him) also inadvertently did us a disservice over the 9 years he was on the show. He made many people think that any type of harsh criticism to the point of vitriol is just “doing it for your own good” type criticism. Yikes. Not good.
There’s real error in this thinking for a couple reasons.
- Simon Cowell is a proven music executive with a highly impressive pedigree. He knows a good voice when he hears one, he knows tempo, and perhaps most importantly (for better or worse) he knows what makes a star and what’s going to sell. American Idol was there for ratings and to make a star out of someone who could sell records. Period.
- Part of the success of the show was Simon’s brash criticisms. It was part of the “character” he was playing. It was his job. It brought drama. When you’re giving someone you know criticism this is not a TV show. This is real life and you are criticizing someone who didn’t necessarily sign up for it.
- Not everyone knows everyone perfectly all the time. If you think you know something about someone and want to tell them who’s to say you are right?
The problem the show created was it opened the door for John Doe to criticize Jane Doe living next door about her Hollywood dreams because HE believes it’s right. Well…what does John Doe know about Hollywood?
Likely very little.
And it wasn’t just this. It allowed for some bosses in the work world to be overly harsh with their assistants and feel that they’re only helping the person “grow”. Meanwhile, some assistants are going home at night crying thinking this is what they have to put themselves through to “make it”.
This is completely wrong in every way imaginable.
Negative Naysayers are still negative naysayers.
As the saying goes…
If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…it’s probably a duck.
There’s a difference between being an honest critic and a real jerk. But American Idol sadly did the line between the two no favors.
Now please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be open to criticism. You absolutely should always be open to what others think and feel. Often constructive criticism really is constructive and quite helpful. Often times it can and will help you grow.
Howeve,r there are some things you should consider before allowing someone to tell you how things should be in your life.
Remember, at the end of the day this is just their opinion. Listen to and trust that light deep inside you that drives you towards your goal. That light is a big deal.
That way when faced with criticism (which you will be, lots of it) from all types you’ll always know that while you are open to it and wanting to improve, you are confident enough in your light that it’s not going to turn off the electricity.
Questions to ask yourself when facing potentially NEGATIVE CRITICISM:
- Is this person a reputable source? Do they have knowledge about what it is they are criticizing you on?
- Did you ask this person for their thoughts / advice? Or did they jump right in?
- Are they telling you it’s “for your own good”? This is a huge turn-off and is a massive warning flag that the person is a raging narcissist. They are putting themselves on a pedestal and assuming they know more about you than you do. Never ever allow someone to claim they know you better than you know yourself.
- Weigh if there are active steps you could take that the person is giving you to get towards your goal. I would be weary of anyone telling me to “give it up.”
- How well do you know the person? What is your history with them? Do they have a history of doing this?
“Constructive Criticism” is a double-edged sword that is not acknowledged quite enough these days. It’s about recognizing when to be open to the opinions of other’s and when to trust one’s own inner belief system. The most important thing you can do is weigh the pros and cons of what the person is saying, not let them get you down, and use the constructive pieces to grow yourself as a human being.
Most importantly, recognize Vitriol from Constructive Criticism. Vitriolcould very well stop you from pursuing your dream right when you’re about to break through. A scary thought.
By Geoff Pilkington. Visit Geoff at GeoffreyPilkington.com.