I have always associated the term criticism with negative feedback, demotivation and mental suppression. And, I bet you did or still do so too. Although that IS the underlying inference of criticism, there’s so much more it’s intended to do than just give off negativism. Let’s see it this way.
As social beings, we can’t function without communication. More importantly, without valuable communication that carries general feedback for us.
Now if we do something even remotely commendable and there’s no reaction to it, positive or negative, then there’s a sink in our motivation. Needless to say, feedback is what we survive on. Whether it’s on how you work, how you do something, how you talk or just about any part of you. The drive to excel in life comes from motivation which partly comes from external feedback AKA constructive criticism.
Yes, the first thing that comes to one’s mind at the mention of criticism is inferiority of sorts. And, the very primal, instant reaction it induces in us is discouragement, which is fairly natural. Regardless, how a critical feedback been less stimulating for you than an attractive yet empty feedback that consisted of only what you wanted to hear.
I don’t think so; because as brutal as a constructive feedback could be, somewhere, it’s also had the power to imbibe improvement in you. Whereas, a gloss coated feedback that you naturally crave is bound to boost your confidence but will not give you a reality check. It’s natural of us to develop this bitterness when it comes to criticism, but perhaps it’s for the good, no?
Say, you are an artist and you’ve been grilling your brain for quite some time to produce a masterpiece. And when it’s ready for the show, you get a bundle of praises and a few other bundles of phrases that sound something like this – ‘Oh, this is wonderful but….’
The key here is ‘but’ and that is what sends repeated pangs to your heart because naturally, whatever follows the ‘but’ isn’t only praises. It’s criticism. It’s honest and it could be brutal. Which is exactly the reason why that is your best friend and why you need such feedback.
Reviews filled with only the good will surely send you into a flurry with pride but it probably won’t push you higher with growth. You’ll remain stagnant.
On the other hand, thoughtful criticism, however and from whomever you receive it, might not instantly send you in a flurry of happiness. But, it will add multiple steps to your success ladder. Criticism has a way to make you appreciate your efforts and flair while also shaking you out of your state, showing you there’s so much more you can do. It shows you there’s a lot of potential in you that remains to be undiscovered yet.
Now, what we don’t know is how to take that criticism and what most critics don’t know is how to give that criticism.
More than the material of the criticism, it’s the delivery and the tonality that makes all the difference. ‘You’re doing wonderful, but…’ will not entirely leave a sickening impression on a person than ‘There’s nothing good that you’re doing.’ It’s all how one delivers criticism.
I can’t stress it enough how criticism is not just picking out flaws. It’s seeing the good, acknowledging it and analysing how something can get better. Now obviously, not everyone is an expert on critiquing in the right sense nor is everyone’s ideologies like your own. So there’s bound to be clashes of opinions and perceptions of yourself and people around you. Eventually, it’s all about how you take it.
Poorly attributed criticism and feedback that’s intended to put you down can be filtered off by you.
Things that make sense to you and click with you can be picked off while the rest can be thrown off the gutter. Whereas, unbiased and intellectual criticism can be used to make your skills stronger, challenge you to grow bigger and work beyond your capabilities.
The key here is to stay open to feedback of every nature on every aspect of your life. And, decide if you want to consider them as a challenge and a push to grow or let it affect your ego and self-esteem. Then, of course, care should also be taken as to not base everything on external feedback and to not let it have a toxic impact on your life.
However, if you’ve been at the low because of how people view you and your work then I suggest, it’s time to look at it differently. Look at criticism as your best friend. A best friend is brutally honest and in your face and that is exactly how criticism is. Nevertheless, the thin line remains there!
Crafted with brevity for select stories to make certain you see what others don't; sent every Friday
Two exclusive fortnightly newsletters, sent on Saturday alternately
a) Reel and Real with Rony Patra
b) Mixer with Ayush Garg