What is criticism, and why are we so afraid of it? Just because you don’t like how it feels to be criticized doesn’t mean the act itself doesn’t have value.
Criticism contains important information that can be both useful and confirming if you don’t personalize it. Yes, it hurts and you may feel some pain and a little shame, but you have to realize that it’s not about you.
The more receptive you are to unflattering and unfiltered feedback, the more honest and direct people will be with you. Both are important elements in building trust and forming relationships. People need to know beforehand that you won’t shut down, turn off or flare up when you hear the unvarnished truth. So, don’t.
When your expectations are clearly communicated those on the receiving end feel good about you and respond positively to what you have to say. Conversely, unclear or ambiguous declarations typically leave the recipients feeling disappointed, discouraged or disillusioned. These disgruntled folks hold valuable clues to what’s not working and why which is why you need to feel comfortable providing honest feedback.
During the early stages of a budding relationship most people will suffer in silence rather than risk telling you what’s really troubling them because they don’t know how you’ll take it. Therefore, you must invite them to speak frankly and to be honest with you; especially if what you’ve said or done has hurt anyone. Your challenge, then, is to encourage those you hold dearest to express their negative feelings and criticisms without putting them through an uncomfortable or embarrassing process.
Being open to criticism invites others to review what you’ve done or said and reflect upon how it feels or looks to them. It’s much like enjoying a movie and later reading a scathing critique from a film critic. Your initial reaction is, “What does he know?” or “Who does he think he is?” Later, as you discuss the movie with friends you start to see some of the faults through the critic’s lens and realize what you missed.
If someone could show you how to avoid making a mistake or teach you how to correct an error, most likely you’d appreciate him or her for doing so; especially if it were conveyed in a graceful, nonjudgmental manner.
Before people will communicate honestly you may first have to show them how to share their concerns, ask difficult questions and face up to the issues that are keeping them from telling you their truth. It’s hard work, but the payoff is worth it.
Being open to receiving negative feedback is a highly valued trait just like all the other life enhancing skills you use every day. Sadly, many of us are not very good at it. Perhaps it’s time to work on getting better. Doers know that people won’t share if they think you don’t care.