“You can`t spell, and you`re grammer is crap!” The previous statement was left in the comment section of one of my articles I posted on my blog. I would like to point out the irony here. The word “grammer” is spelled incorrectly. That is often how nonconstructive criticism works. People will criticize you about things they do not like about themselves or things they can’t do themselves.
Unfortunately, in our society negative criticism is rampant. We criticize our favorite sports team when we ourselves cannot even throw a ball. We criticize our employers when they have built a business from the ground up and we have never even had the courage to try such a risky endeavor. We’re all guilty of it at some point in our lives, me included. The questions are: Why do people criticize negatively? How do we handle negative criticism? How can we criticize constructively?
The Reasons We Criticize Others
Jealousy is often the fuel of criticism. We see someone who has the life we want, the things we want, the happiness we want or the relationship we want. We are jealous and/or angry that we don’t have those things. So we try to justify why some people have it and we don’t. We say they earned it dishonestly, or they don’t use their blessings well, or that they are not the type of people who deserve such things.
We see behaviors in others that we don’t like about ourselves, and we criticize them for it. More often than not, we do this without knowing that is why we are doing it. We condemn people for cheating when we ourselves cheat. We condemn people for not being honest when we ourselves are not honest. We condemn people for not doing what we should when we ourselves are not doing what we should.
For example: An ex-partner of mine owed me a great deal of money (in the thousands), and he would not even make small payments to me. Yet his brother-in-law owed him $200. His brother-in-law got a tattoo and my ex-partner said to me, “he owes me $200 and can’t afford to pay me, yet he can afford a tattoo?” It dawned on me that people see the mistakes of others that they themselves are making. Yet, for some reason, they cannot make the connection that they are just as guilty of the very thing they are condemning in another. Obviously, I felt the same way about my ex-partner that he felt about his brother-in-law.
Other people simply do not feel good about themselves, and they need to tear others down to make themselves feel better about who they are. We have all known or worked with people like this. They are constantly saying negative things about others. They constantly look for the faults of others and exploit them while NEVER acknowledging their own faults.
Often criticism comes from people who do not have the courage to try what you are trying to do. You many have a dream and you have the courage to follow it. The people who criticize you for it do not have the courage and/or the vision to follow a dream and they know it. Maybe it is subconscious, but they know that you have something they don’t. So they tell you “that will never work.” “You’re a fool for trying.” “You are making a mistake.” “That is simply not the way things are done.” “You are going to fail.” If all of us listened to people like that, you would not be reading this article on a device called a computer invented by someone, via the internet that was invented by someone, in a forum that was the concept of someone. We would not even have the basics in life. If no one dared to follow a dream, we would not have music, movies, books and all manners of inventions that make our life better. If you have a dream, and it is well thought out, then let nothing stop you, especially the people who don’t have the courage to follow their dream.
How to Deal with Negative Criticism
First, it helps to keep in mind the type of people who criticize us negatively as listed above. Once we realize this, we can take their criticism with a grain of salt. We can realize that they either do not feel good about themselves or have the same behaviors we do or our jealous in some way or lack courage. The main thing to keep in mind is they are not trying to help us. They are trying to hurt us for one of the reasons listed above. If they were truly trying to help us or cared about us, they would offer more positive criticism.
Take the comment that was left on one of my articles. If that person was a positive person and wanted to share some knowledge that would help me, they would have said something like “your articles have good content, but they would be better if you concentrated on improving your grammar and spelling so they were easier to read.” Perhaps the person that left the comment has been criticized for their grammar and spelling and wanted to criticize someone else.
Despite his motivation, the comment was made in an effort to put me down, not build me up. There will always be people who want to tear you down. Ignore them. They are not good for you, nor is it worth your time to try to change such a person. They have to decide whether they want to be a positive person or a negative person. Until they make that decision, they can be poison to your psyche. So simply stay away from them as much as possible.
Second, ask yourself is there any positive you can take from the negative criticism. It is true that I sometimes misspell words or use improper grammar. It is something I can truly improve on. Those things can detract some people from the message or thoughts I am trying to convey through my articles. Some people will see it as a lack of credibility. “If he can’t even spell, he is not smart enough to offer advice.” A word of caution here, even the most uneducated of people have lived life, learned lessons and have some good advice because of it. Never let your judgment of others affect you to the point that you miss learning something from someone just because the information was not presented in a manner you deem to be fitting. Don’t get caught up in your shallow thinking. Look for the deeper meaning in what is being said.
Third, never let negative criticisms make you feel bad or discourage you. Often people want you to act in a certain way or do certain things because that is how they would to it. They cannot see things through your eyes. They were brought up in a certain way and have certain genetic predispositions. This means they truly believe that their way is the only way. Perhaps if we were brought up in the exact same manner that they were, we would see things the same. But we weren’t. We have our own visions. We have our own path to follow. Our path is not more right or wrong than path of another. It is simply our path. So try to see it as two differing opinions, two different ways of going about things. Stay true to your path. Those being said, never discount constructive criticism.
Criticism of any kind is difficult to accept. We feel that people are attacking us personally, and we react with feelings of hurt, anger or both. But constructive criticism is something completely different. It usually comes from someone who is trying to make you better. We need to not only have people like this in our lives, we should seek them out. We need people to tell us the truth as they see it. A truth they want to give to us because it makes us better people and they want us to be better people. This does not mean they will always be spot on with the advice they give us, but they will encourage us to look at ourselves and see if there is room for improvement.
A man worked for me who was constantly asking me how he could do things better. I told him that he was doing a great job and that I really had nothing to say. He said to me, “that is simply not true. I may be doing a great job, but there is always room for improvement. You have experience that I do not have, and I want to be the best I can be. So please, even if you think the suggestion to get better is too small to mention, please tell it to me anyway. It might make a world of difference to me.”
What a great attitude to have, and really, he is right. How can we improve unless we seek to improve? What better way to improve than to ask someone who has done what we are trying to do and have been successful at it. I started making suggestions for improvement to this man. He loved it. Because of it, he did get better and became the best employee I ever had. He got to the point that he was just as good at the job as I was. I could send him to do anything and not have one single worry that it was not being done right and being done with top-notch quality.
When offering constructive criticism, always start out with what the person is doing right. Don’t make this up or embellish it. Simply state the truth. Then tell them that you think they could even be better if they did “xyz.” Again, using the example above, the person who left the comment that I can’t spell and my grammar is crap could have approached that in a more positive manner making me more receptive to what they were saying. This approach works in every aspect of your life. It works with friends, siblings, loved ones, spouses, co-workers, bosses, employees and so on. The key is you need to genuinely want the person to improve. You may want to make them a better person. Despite your motivation, it must come from a positive place. It is the only way people will be receptive to your advice.
I leave you with one of my favorite comments on criticism ever written;
THE CRITIC – “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt.