6 fundamentals everyone always forgets about accepting criticism

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” –WINSTON CHURCHILL

We are not perfect and commit mistakes, but it is difficult to accept we were wrong or supported a wrong idea. But I question — How can the world be so ruthless to ignore all our strengths, taking them for granted, focusing only on our weaknesses, criticizing us all the time and expecting us to accept dirt thrown on us with open arms. Not fair.

Not fair, but true. As true as the rising sun.  Even Sun has to burn to illuminate the world. Positive or negative,  right or wrong, we face criticism. When we accept criticism openly, it opens gates of personal development; when we ignore it we become the enemy of our own growth like William.

When we accept criticism openly, it opens gates of personal development, ignoring makes us enemy. Click To Tweet

William works in a news agency.  He is hard working,  smart professional.  He reaches office on time,  finishes assigned task on time and leaves office on time. But like all human he has his share of shortcomings.  He is arrogant, controlling and irritating, when working in a group. When colleagues criticize him for this,  he takes it personally ignoring the intent. His professional experience counts to 6 years, but he, recently, missed promotion as a team leader.

The example of William shows: how a smart professional misses career growth,  when he fails to learn the art of accepting criticism.

William wants to take criticism positively. But what stops him, is the ignorance of fundamentals — the fundamentals of accepting criticism constructively.  When we pay attention to following principals, we can overcome the obstacles that hinder us from accepting criticism.

Tips to accepting criticism
Photo by CitySkylineSouvenir

6 fundamentals everyone always forgets about accepting criticism

Avoid fallacy of appearing perfect to outside world

The fallacy of appearing perfect in social setting is alluring. Who doesn’t want to look smart, witty and prefect before public, at least I do. But in our attempt to appear perfect,  we forget that nobody is perfect. We commit mistakes,  learn from them and apply those learnings to improve our life.  The learning circle moves good till play school, where we commit Lots of mistakes,  learn from them,  but don’t give a dime what people think of us.

As we get older,  our social interaction increases,  so does our desire to seek outside approval. We start associating our worth with our social acceptance. With time,  we become pray of the fallacy —Appearing Perfect.

A criticism, constructive or destructive, threatens to shatter our fallacy.  It instills fear of damaging our social rank,  in response,  we become angry,  annoyed, resentful.  We avoid accepting criticism not because we see it as personal attack,  but because,  it seems to tarnish our social and professional image, the image of a prefect man who can’t commit mistakes.

Taking as personal attack is a reason to avoid accepting criticism, tarnishing of public image is another. Click To Tweet

To get out of this social trap, understand that our worth is not the prisoner of other’s approval.  We are worthwhile with all our mistakes and shortcomings. With hard work we may have achieved money,  power and fame; however,  there remains a place for improvement. We should not ignore accepting constructive criticism,  in the name of social prestige.

Avoid Fear of Exploitation

Sometimes people refuse to accept criticism,  accept that their behavior was unacceptable and they need to change it, because they assume that others may use it as an opportunity to exploit them. Others will consider their acceptance as their weakness and will take undue advantage of the situation to hurt them.

We can see some validity in the argument. If criticism is offered with an intention to take undue advantage, how can we accept it? I agree with the point. But not all criticism falls under this condition.

Some criticism are offered with the sole intention of our development, which we call constructive criticism. We should be ready to accept these. Read post how to identify a criticism as positive or negative to better understand the phenomenon. Failure to accept criticism is a hindrance in our personal growth.

The problem with not accepting our mistake in fear of coercion is that, gradually, it becomes a habit —first we disregard only the destructive criticism, but with time we tend to reject all criticism whether constructive or destructive —a harmful habit.

For the matter of coercion, we should confront the criticizer openly that our acceptance does not mean we are weak; it only means that we are willing to improve. When we clearly disregard any psychological pressure upfront, criticizer will hardly ever try to take undue advantage of the situation.

Accept mistake as mistake,  not as an ego affair

Daily, we are responsible to finish many personal, professional and social tasks. We get them right most of the time and should give us credit for it. But few things escape from our attention span and we make mistakes, which is natural. Mistakes signify our attempts; they are the byproduct of work and success. The thing to remember is to treat mistake as mistake,  not as ego affair. Until we identify mistake as mistake, we cannot plan for their rectification.

Mahatma Gandhi used to say that there is great strength in truth, only a strong person can accept his mistakes. If we know we are wrong in any matter, we should develop courage to accept it without considering mistake as an ego affair. When we accept our mistake, criticizers tend to soften voice and consider it as the first step towards improvement.

Restrict criticizer to his most bothering concern

Criticism is often overwhelming, it includes too many issues to concentrate. Even if we want to keep a positive outlook on accepting criticism, we may get irritated if a criticism raises many concerns. To limit the criticism to its most annoying factors, we can ask the criticizer: what is that one thing, he wants us to improve,  which is bothering him the most?

It is easier to find solution to a single problem than to a bunch of it. When we need to change only one thing at a time, we become open to accepting criticism. By prioritizing the criticism to only important affair, we can effectively work on it.

When we need to change only one thing at a time, we become open to accepting criticism. Click To Tweet

Realize that criticism demands new learning,  and learning is painful

We get files and reports for revision from our bosses. It frustrates us. We have done our best in the first attempt, why go for revision? But, in reality, revision is nothing but a constructive criticism to improve a  piece of work, which requires us to come out of our comfort zone, learn something new.

Criticism is an attempt to alter our habits, any change in habit requires to move away from comfort zone and learn something new —a painful process, but mandatory for personal development.

Criticism asks altering habits, demanding to move away from comfort zone and learn new things. Click To Tweet

The brain needs to develop neural pathways to learn anything new. We like to apply what we already know, and tend to avoid any information which demands new learning.  Remember school days, when studies used to make us sleepy, and now as a working professional, we can do things for hours; it is because when we were in school our prime focus was learning new concepts, which was painful, in the workplace it is to apply them.

With this background, I want to emphasize that the causes of not accepting criticism are  deeper than egoism. We avoid accepting criticism not only because we associate it with ego, but because it has subconscious connections as well, the subconscious connection of avoiding pain.

This awareness of avoiding pain is important.  When we realize that avoiding pain is at the heart of not accepting criticism,  we can take rational decision on accepting criticism.  The chances of accepting  constructive criticism improves.

Write down the criticism

Another approach to deal with criticism is to write down the fine points of a criticism. A criticism is hardly ever solely destructive or constructive, but it is our mind fallacy to focus on the negative part and ignore the constructive part of criticism. If we write down the criticism in our own words leaving behind the destructive part, we can find words of wisdom in any criticism. Writing things gives us a proper frame of reference to analyze any piece of information.

We find wisdom in any criticism, when we write criticism in own words leaving destructive part. Click To Tweet

We can ripe several benefits from writing down the criticism.

  • We get a written record of the criticism, which we can use for reference in future.
  • We can use written criticism to document advices we get regularly and prioritize them in order of frequency.
  • We can use the written criticism as benchmarks to track our progress in adapting our behavior.
[sociallocker] In conclusion, we see that people ignore accepting criticism for varied reasons ranging from taking criticism as personal attack to tarnishing of social prestige to fear of exploitation and many more. We can overcome these problems with self assurance and confidence. When we believe in ourselves,  in our strengths, external approval becomes secondary. Mahatma Gandhi’s words comes to mind,  “No one can insult you without your permission”.
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Criticism demands change of behavior and new learnings.  Though painful,  the process is essential for self improvement. A criticism raising many issues is Pandora’s box. Prioritizing issues in order of importance,  tackling a single issue at a time,  will ease discomfort of accepting criticism.

Writing down criticism in our own words will help to remove destructive part.  A written criticism acts as a guide to evaluate our progress over time.

The significance of learning the art of accepting criticism lies in the all round development it brings. As Meridith Valiando Rojas has rightly noted—

“Mistakes will not end your business. If you are nimble and willing to listen to constructive criticism you can excel by learning and evolving.”

6 fundamentals everyone always forgets about accepting criticism
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