I’m slightly allergic to criticism. Because whatever you say, it’s nothing I haven’t said to myself a hundred more times, but meaner.
But it’s a learning curve and I accept that it’s important. So I guess I have a love/hate relationship with criticism.
What you learn from it though, well you can learn a whole lot.
Somebody told me on Twitter that criticism was a bad way of making a request, so just make the request. Which I kind of love. But even if a request isn’t made, you can still learn from it.
What I’ve learnt about criticism, I’ve mostly learnt how I could have done things better. There are plenty of times when I’ve criticised things, hiding behind the banner of ‘it’s not personal’. But really, to the person you are criticising it IS personal. It has to be. It’s always personal.
1. Too much honesty can be unkind
People remember kindness more than they remember criticism. Not because one is positive and the other is negative, but because kindness says more about you as a person than honesty does. Now I think is it necessary? Am I actually providing something useful? And possibly more importantly does criticism need to happen in public? Because a lot of the time it doesn’t. Sure, it’s easy. A tweet here or an update there. But what is the goal of that? Most of the time criticism is best received in private. It’s easier to absorb.
2. No matter what you do, some people won’t like you
It’s true. And nothing is more soul destroying than trying to please all of the people all of the time. When I look at criticism I think is it valid? Do they have a point? But I also think is this representative of my community? Because sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s just a person or a group that you rub the wrong way. And I kind of fall into the camp that a reaction is better than apathy. Some people won’t like it, some people will love it. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to contort yourself into a version of you that is more palatable.
3. You can’t change an opinion
You can learn from someone’s opinion. They present a view that you might not have thought of before. And you can use that to inform how you look at things. But you can’t change it. Someone else’s opinion of you or your business or your writing is their business, not yours.
4. Mistakes are made once, anything else is intentional
Not any mistakes of course. But the same mistake. If you keep making the same mistake, it’s not a mistake anymore, it starts to look more like a plan. I figure if I learn from my mistakes, they are worth it. Just. Sure, I’d like to undo some things, go back, change what I did. But I can’t. Some things are hard learned. But the harder the learning, the more it sticks with you.
The truth is after having weathered a certain amount of criticism myself, it casts my own behaviour in the past into a somewhat harsh light. Once you’ve seen how it feels on the other side, it changes how you do things. It changes how you see how other people handle criticism. It comes down to what you want. Do you want to be right? Or do you want to give people the benefit of believing that on any given day they are operating with good intentions?
That’s not to say that dissent won’t always hold a very special place in my heart. It has a place, a very important place. People need to be able to disagree without being labelled as ‘trolls’ or ‘haters’ or anything else. And the object of disagreement shouldn’t be being proven right, but gaining a greater understanding of the other person’s point of view.
So I guess what I’ve learnt is that passion is great. Passion is amazing. Passion creates leaders and activists and amazing people. But if I had a choice between people knowing me as right or empathic, I’d choose empathic. I’d choose kindness. I’d choose not succumbing to confected outrage. And I’d choose being personal.