Grain of Salt, or How to Take Your Criticism

Criticism is a grain of salt. So take it with it. Much like our delicious sodium friend, it can enhance our experience or it can ruin it.

If you stand up, stand out, and stand for something, criticism is a wonderful gauge to measure¬†how you are doing. It can actually be (if not feel like) a great compliment. But let’s talk a bit about how to deal with criticism. Here is my five-step process for shipping and handling criticism:

  1. Consider the source. An old friend of mine, a newspaper publisher in California, puts it perfectly: “If the a**holes are mad at you, you’re doing something right.” So the first step in the S&H of criticism is answering the question – who’s the critic? In this personally magnetic world, you’re going to attract and repel people the higher up you go, so remember it’s just as important to note and track who’s fighting you as who’s fighting for you. Are the people against you the right people you envisioned? Good, you’re on the right track. Remember that.
  2. Constructive or destructive. Now that we’ve defined the critic, it’s time to define the critique. Is there something educational, instructive,¬†in their words? Can you learn something from it? Rather than getting angry, put on your child’s heart and spirit into it, and say “Well, that’s curious, I wonder…” If the critic is someone you number as a friend, then chances are you, emperor, are wearing no clothes. Critiques can build you up stronger than ever or level you flat, either way, both can serve you if you know the type of criticism you are handling.
  3. Critics are their job and they’re just doing it. Most of the time, you’ll find critics are just doing what they have to do. Whether it’s the office gossip or the guy who does the thumbs up / thumbs down thing at movies. It’s just part of their identity, and like it or not, we do use their opinions all the time. An example, when’s the last time you made a purchase on Amazon? And did their star rating have any influence on your purchase? Of course it did, why? It’s all just reviews from people (who may or may not be unbiased). But we rely on their opinions and evaluations to help shape our purchases. In the end, when it comes to you and not the newest Kindle, I hope you understand while critics always have a place in the world, they don’t get to star rate you (unless we’re talking five stars, baby).
  4. Everyone’s a critic. You ever heard that? It’s true. Writing a post about criticism is me criticizing critics. I’m aware of this. So should you. We all judge people. Guy today honked at me while I was trying to pull a U-Turn because I stopped short. I had to stop short because the oncoming cars who wanted to turn in front of me were blocking my view of oncoming traffic. He had an incomplete picture of my mission and thus chose to judge my actions. Did I get mad? Maybe. But I understood. It was a nice old guy who maybe needed to get to his grandkids or something. I am not always so understanding, but you understand the old saying: Opinions are like the aforementioned orifice. Everyone’s got one.* And sometimes (all the time) they don’t have the entire picture. Decide whether or not it’s worth the time to paint by numbers and fill it in.
  5. Consider the source, part deux. Complete and close the loop. If their opinion is worth something (a reputable source, a reputable periodical, a reputable critique), realize that there is some baseline level of your importance in that person’s life that makes you cause for their concern. The bigger the scale, the larger the venue, the more significance is implied. Who gets critiqued at the largest scale? Presidents and game changers. Sure, your aunt and uncle just got on Facebook and have their opinions on how you parent. So what? People talk for two reasons: Out of love or out of a cry for help. Keep that in mind the next time a dear friend gets mad at you. Treat them as if they’re reaching out for help and do what the critics won’t. Go and help them directly.

Nobody likes criticism. But you can learn to love where it’s coming from. Because we often find the hardest person on us is us. So go easy on all. Both the critic and the critiqued. If you’re like me, you’ve imagined an entire army of opposition and the truth is 99% is your own imagination. And with a simple flip of your mental switch, the battle is already won. You can handle the 1%, of this I’m positive, it’s getting to the point of certainty that the 99% of criticism you fear simply exists in your noodled cabeza. The more and more you build the reputation and character of being able to withstand and grow from criticism, that’s the secret to much of all of this world. Move forward, hit a wall, fall, people laugh, get up, keep going. Repeat.

* Apologies if you don’t have one.

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