The final proof of greatness lies in being able to endure criticism without resentment”;
Most of us don’t enjoy the feeling of having been criticised. We’ve all been there, whether it’s within work for not completing a task correctly, or for burning the dinner at home, for not turning up on time at an appointment or for letting your side down on a team, we all face criticism somewhere in our daily lives.
However, being able to react positively to those criticisms with grace and objectivity is an essential life skill which in the end brings dividends to our personal growth. However, not all of us possess this naturally and without some training.
Some of the greatest and most successful figures in our society have suffered stark criticism and rejection on a large scale, only to learn from the subject of the criticism, pick themselves up, work harder, face their obstacles and come back stronger to then gain enormous success. Microsoft founder Bill Gates, initially failed several times and faced criticism after initially creating accompany called Traf-O-Data. This maiden venture flopped spectacularly, but he took criticism positively, learnt from his mistakes and bounced back to create the global empire of Microsoft. Similarly, enormous names in successful history such as Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Oprah Winfrey, Marilyn Monroe and even Steven Spielberg all suffered at the hands of defeat and criticism before acquiring great achievements.
When comparing this with our own lives, with our own successes and defeats, how can we teach ourselves to feed positivity into the opinions shared by others? Taking on the daily influences of Western society where the natural propensity is to feel vilified upon hearing a self-criticism, but to bask happily in the glow of praise – whether worthy or not, how do we go about improving our view of handling both the critics and the criticisms when they occur?
Firstly, it’s good to remember that most criticism carries at least a small grain of truth. Whether it’s an accurate interpretation of your actions, or slightly exaggerated, it’s good to remember that ‘this is worth a listen’. Even if it makes uncomfortable listening, it’s worth taking on board positively because you can then either learn from it, or act on it and make a difference. Either way, it’s win-win.
If the criticism is truly unjustified, sometimes it’s easier to deal with than when legitimate. This is because unnecessary criticism can be treated with aloofness and by ignoring it. If we remain silent and non-committal, the criticism cannot be fed and peters out like a damp fire. If we react, it effectively gives credence to a comment which is otherwise irrelevant.
Ultimately, the best reaction of all is a considered one however. Whether the criticism is deserved or otherwise, by not reacting immediately, we’re not only giving ourselves time to digest the comment, but to also decide if there is a root of truth in the person’s criticism or not. By acting straight away, it often carries unnecessary emotion with it such as anger or indignation from injured pride. By waiting a while, it enables us to reflect in a calmer manner. If we react to our critic with a smile and reasonable temperament, if nothing else, it is likely to motivate them to moderate their approach, resulting with everyone feeling better all round; and with yourself taking away a new life skill.
TE September 2018