Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about constructive criticism versus unnecessary judgments or exploitation. Of course I’m opposed to any cruelness toward others, but I think drawing the line between being helpful and being hurtful is more difficult than we think.
I have become more sensitive with age, and I doubt I’m alone when I say I over-analyze and read into everything said to or about me, be it good or bad. Maybe it comes from me being a dance teacher and having to be hyperaware of my effect on the future generations (traumatizing or discouraging a kid is my worst fear).
Anyway, the combination of teaching dance and having a sensitive personality has led me to want to give up on criticism entirely. I despise sadness with everything in me, and I wish we could feel happiness without it. I know it’s an immature statement, but I really wish people didn’t have to feel pain, and I think that’s why I have a hard time giving criticism.
I’m not an angel; I’m definitely not saying I don’t make judgments and think negatively about others. I’m human, so of course I do, but when it comes to truly confronting someone with suggestions intended to be helpful, I’ve developed a fear.
Luckily, my perspective was refreshed and enlightened, you could say, when I had the opportunity to connect with a group of ambitious and empowered individuals dedicated to criticism that invokes positive change.
As I listened to one of them discuss the improvements that came from telling the truth, even when it was difficult, I truly had an “AHA” moment.
I forgot that people are strong and people can understand when criticism comes from a genuine, well-intentioned place. While it never feels great to be told you have room for improvement, it’s a necessary reality check for everyone.
Constructive criticism is nothing more than feedback aimed at betterment and improvement, and if we all took extra time to remember that, what we could achieve would be limitless.
So next time you’re going back and forth in your head trying to decide if you should say something or not (in any situation it is), don’t shy away from offering your insight. Plan what you’re going to say so it comes out how you want it to, and be positive it’s coming from a genuine place.
Finally, if you’re receiving criticism, especially when it wasn’t asked for, give that person the benefit of the doubt that he or she is doing it to be helpful. It’s hard, but separate your feelings and think with a business-oriented mindset. See if that criticism is valid. If it is, congratulations! You’ve just been given the opportunity to improve. If you don’t know, just remember you have the final say in your creative ventures or professional endeavors. Stay true to your values, and if someone’s suggestions seem irrelevant or out of place, take it with a grain of salt and move on.