Accepting Constructive Criticism Cheerfully

A recent post by psychologistmimi caught my attention.  People don’t like criticism.  This is unfortunate for people like me who love to give it.  Yes, I realize this is a character flaw, but one in which I justify by pounding myself harder than any other.  As an employer, I heard numerous excuses:

I don’t usually do that.  I’m not at fault, you’re just blaming me.  You just don’t like me.  You are expecting too much.  You’re just trying to make me quit.

I believe that being born into a family of constructive, criticism-giving experts, entitles me to address this issue.  Every day of my youth was an opportunity to learn. That doesn’t mean I enjoyed being on the receiving end, but with the passage of time, I’ve come to appreciate their wisdom.  Into my 30’s, I was pretty set in my ways, and not one to accept criticism, graciously.  At the end of a date with one particularly nice, smart, good looking guy, he dropped the bomb as he was leaving.  Actually, it was a book, about how to live rationally.  WHAT? Am I irrational?!  Trust me.  He was very smart to hand it to me, on his way out.  When my blood eventually cooled to a simmer, I found that the book made some very good points.  I saw opportunities for improvement.  For several weeks, each new date, ended with a new book.  Those were very bold moves on his part, and not one that I would recommend to any young man trying to woo his sweetheart.  However, I’m grateful he was persistent because I ended up marrying him.  Those books transformed me.  I never did enjoy receiving them but, I read them and began to transform.  Eventually, I began to buy and read books on my own.

What is it about criticism that makes us so defensive?  As an educator, my job calls for giving constructive criticism to my students.  My first semester on the job, three students cried during mid-term evaluations despite my purposeful stressing of positive feedback. Their emotional responses to criticism afforded me the opportunity to share the experience with my husband.  As one that has learned to not take criticism personally, but to use it to transform myself into a better human being.  That’s when I realized how wonderful it is to be this age; the age of experience.  At this age, we have really lived the ups and downs of life, and survived them.  Life is beautiful and fun.  Sharing our experiences with others is a blessing.

I believe a bond, of sorts, was formed with each of those students.  They learned that I was on their side, that I wanted them to succeed.  And yes, I wrote down the names of some books for them to read.

2 thoughts on “Accepting Constructive Criticism Cheerfully

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  1. I love constructive criticism. Ok, maybe not love, but I really value it. After I get over the momentary “ow” I try to really examine it and see what, if anything, I can own. There have been times I have blown it off because the criticism wasn’t really about me. And there have been times where I have grown enormously because of it. I now see it as an opportunity.

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  2. It’s funny, isn’t it – why would we not be grateful to people who take the trouble to crticize? At least they have noticed us. I had a very mature student once who did his dissertation on ‘Customer complaints as free consultancy’. My guess is that we fear learning; we sometimes just cannot be bothered with it. Either that or we have got our performance and our identity confused with each other.

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