25 Nov 2012

One Surefire Way Of Becoming A Constructive Critic!

Purvesh (read and subscribe to his awesome blog) & I got into a discussion during a booze session about my previous blog article. While he agreed that people readily dish out criticism (and another blogger took a jab at me here), he didn’t agree with the heading. He rightly pointed out that the whole world is not your critic. Only people who know you criticize you; some do it for your good while others do try to go one up on you.

Purvesh suggested the next article be on how to be a constructive critic. So here it is.

Who is a critic? Wikipedia says “A critic is anyone who expresses a value judgment. Informally, criticism is a common aspect of all human expression and need not necessarily imply skilled or accurate expressions of judgment. At its simplest, and for whatever reason, a critic may have either constructive or destructive intent.” So why do YOU criticize someone?
Simon Cowell - A constructive critic? Yeah, right!

Early in his life, Abraham Lincoln criticized people ruthlessly. He’d leave letters in the marketplace lambasting someone and readers would heartily laugh. It was when a politician challenged him to a duel and it came to life and death did he decide that he wouldn’t make his negative feelings public anymore.

As I said earlier, we criticize people because we want the best for them or because we want to show them down. But the words we use almost always decide how the person takes it. Harsh words generally compromise the point we’re trying to drive, while sweet words probably ensure the person won’t heed them.

So how do you become a constructive critic?

The secret: YOU DON’T! We cannot criticize someone because we think are better than them at something or we have dollops of advice to offer. Often the advice may be way off target or totally redundant. Then we have criticism techniques – sandwich method and chutney method and blah blah. But are we qualified enough to criticize anyone? Maybe someone is not as interested as us in that aspect; they’re much better at something else. Does that mean they retort by criticizing us on what they’re good at? The war will never end. So don’t criticize anyone.

Yes, you’ll say criticism is important to help subordinates improve at work, help children learn what’s right, help friends get out of bad habits… News Flash! No one does anything unless they want to do it. Will your criticism convince them to do something that doesn’t interest them?

If you really want someone to improve, trust his/her capability to learn and improve. Be it at work, home or amongst friends, let the person do things his/her way and learn from experience. He may come up with alternate and better ways. And if that doesn’t happen, the person will approach you for help. Don’t start the “I told you so” bit and dish out advice like water. Ask relevant questions to make the person himself provide the answers you wanted to give all along; he’ll accept the point faster. If the person is stuck and asks for help, hand out a pointer or 2 to get his mind running.

I’ve worked under a lot of people, but distinctly remember one superior who did exactly what’s written above. He never spoke badly to anyone, never tried showing his authority or tried teaching us what to do. He offered advice when asked or when the situation was critical. Even in the latter, he would ask the person to come up with an action plan after reviewing which he would add pointers if needed. Needless to say, he is one of the most loved and respected people known.

I know this is the hardest thing for us humans. We subconsciously end up judging a situation/person and offer our 2 cents. But merely trying one step of not criticizing anyone (constructively or unconstructively) will change the way we look at the world. We’ll be more patient, accepting and approachable; we’ll broaden our horizons. Plus, the world will start looking at us differently. And remember – today, to stand out, you have to be different.

14 Nov 2012

Who Is Your Biggest Critic?

No! Not yourself! But the world! The world dons the hat of being your most constructive critic, whether you like it or not. Never mind the fact that there is nothing constructive in their criticism. Most people have the habit of judging you based on how good you are in their domain. You may be good at many aspects, but aspects which they know better decide how good they think you are. So you may be a good musician, biker, blogger, athlete, person, etc. But they’d rather focus on your clumsiness while cooking, grooming, allergy to bullshit, things about your attitude that they find offensive, etc.

Mind you, even leaders have to put up with this behaviour. People won’t just tell them how a situation should be handled; they will also chastize the leader for trying something contrary to what the masses believe.

Yes, it’s important to be diplomatic in today’s world; it’s KALYUG after all. However, one must fight the tide that is the herd and come up trumps.
Who's Your Biggest Critic?

Here are 5 suggestions:

1.      Be Amused: - Isn’t it amusing how the world is full of irony? While people will criticize you for a certain act, they will justify it when they do the same. Trying to fight at such times will aggravate tension. Instead, realize the criticism is hollow; the person can’t practice what he preaches. Does such criticism matter? Be amused at how filled with contradictions the world is, and you’ll soon be able to see the world through a larger perspective.

2.     Smile: - Believe me, it dispels tension within you; you can always worry about the world seeing your pearly whites later. When someone points something out in you, smile. It’ll make you realize the person is incapable of seeing things from your viewpoint. Also, he is insecure. One genuine smile and you’ll be in a forgiving mood instead of a sparring one. The latter isn’t worth it. And when you think you can’t smile, force yourself. Smile for 20 seconds and you automatically start feeling better. It really works!

3.   Be Confident: - Confidence stems from self-respect. Don’t lose your self-respect for anyone. Self-respect lets you care for people without being walked upon. Confidence lets you do what you want, be how you want and deflect criticism that shouldn’t come your way in the first place. Doubt there’s any need for further elaboration.

4.     Be Assertive: - Make sure your confidence doesn’t spill into overconfidence. There’s a thin line between assertiveness and aggression. The aggressive, know-it-all person deserves to be picked upon by others. Know your limits, respect people and others’ respect will eventually find its way to you.

5.    Listen: - Yes, this sounds like it contradicts everything written above. But you must listen to people to keep finding areas of improvement in yourself. There’s a true saying – “The moment you’re through changing, you’re through.” You don’t wanna end up like the rest who can point out hundreds of faults in others but fail to look inwards. So listen to the underlying message. Disregard how it’s being said. Most people don’t understand the meaning of constructive criticism. You’ll pick out finer points to improve yourself. You’ll be able to handle negativity also; you’ll learn how to turn adversity into an adventure.

Marc and Angel say that most people criticising don’t do so personally. They’re merely disappointed in themselves, which reflects in what they see in the world. Also, if people are criticising you, it’s because you’re doing things which displease them and threatens to break away from convention. So if you’re gutsy, go ahead! Be who you are and stand up for what you believe in! Some say if the world is moving the direction opposite to you, just turn around. I disagree! The world is waiting to be herded in thousands by people like you who are confident. This confidence yields power. Are you strong enough?

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