you walk away from the conversation that produces the contrast. Feedback makes you better and improves your performance. Feedback helps and is necessary for human beings as for any system that grows stronger and self-corrects with information.
So how is that different from criticism? Criticism has a punch that delivers a message that you're not measuring up. It's a judgment delivered along with the feedback. Think about the times you've walked out of a meeting or a conversation asking yourself why a leader or compatriot had to be so mean? And it might leave you fearful not to cross that person or speak up or venture an opinion because you don't know when that person will erupt all over you.
I know that it's possible to hear criticism as a critique, analysis, or evaluation. I coach people to say thank you as a way to defuse the energy of criticism and then listen and ask questions. But when criticism crosses over to passing judgment and faultfinding, it gets in the way of people listening and absorbing information so they can solve problems.
If you're nodding your head in the affirmative right now, think about where you've been overly critical and judgmental, whether it's been with your mate or kids or someone at work. What causes the move to severe judgment? I've asked many people that question, and they disclose that I should listen to their self-criticism! They're hard on themselves and therein may reveal the root cause of their overly critical nature.
Why are you hard on yourself? Past mistakes, blunders, and missed opportunities? For me, it's when I showed a complete lack of awareness of something that should have been obvious. Then I wake up to the fact that what should have been obvious is only apparent in this present moment. And somehow, when I'm overly critical, I'm on the losing end of the past (I wasn't enough) and the future (I can't get it right). Then the realization hits that there is just right now to make a difference. And although I can't always make it up to someone where I was overly critical in the past, I can now be more aware and pay the lesson forward.
Notice where you're overly critical, then pause and examine your intention. If you speak, will it help? Is it necessary? If criticism is happening around you, ask questions. In that way, everyone can better understand if the critique creates improvement or is a reprimand. A question you can ask is, "How does this information help correct the problem?" And if the problem isn't apparent, ask questions to clarify the concern.
I've often said I can listen to anything because I know how to ask well-aimed questions. Then I can redirect the energy to defeating the problem instead of criticizing the people around the table. It requires focus grounded in an approach that acknowledges that I am the source of the outcome rather than the victim of the process.
I'd love to hear from you what you notice about criticism and feedback in your life and any tools you use so you can listen to, understand the importance of, and take action on information no matter how it's presented. Criticism may sting because there's some truth in it. Listen for the truth, learn, grow, and ponder the rest. Then criticism transforms into feedback, and your relationships grow stronger.
And remember that heartfelt praise is also feedback that improves performance and lifts morale.
May your day be filled with curiosity and love.
Paulette Sun Davis