Good Criticism vs Bad Criticism

I finished a speech last month and hustled to the back of the room to autograph books.  It is my mini-rockstar moment and I love it thoroughly.  Until I get a criticism.

Sometimes it is subtle. “Great speech, Mike. I think I saw your tie on a Brady Bunch episode.”  Are you sure?  I just bought it off the discount rack at Sears. Note to self: Mike Brady should not be my fashion role model.

Other times a criticism is delivered with pure love.  One fella told me how powerful my speech was, but that he was distracted when I snorted a few times because of my runny nose.  Gross!  I didn’t even know I was doing that.  Note to self: Always be armed with tissues.

And occasionally a criticism is delivered in a nasty, condescending way.  At my speech last month, that is exactly what happened.  A woman came up to me, saw me autographing books, and said “Clearly you haven’t been an author for long. You are autographing the wrong page.  You are supposed to sign the page with your book title on it.” Note to self: This woman is an idiot.

My hackles went up.  Who is she to tell me what to do?  My thoughts immediately attacked her intelligence.  Clearly she was a bitter, misguided fool.  But after I thought about it and thought about it some more, it was clear.  She was right and perhaps, just perhaps, not an idiot.  From that moment forward I have always signed the title page.

The problem with criticism is that most of us judge the message on how it is delivered, not on what is delivered.

If a criticism crashes into our ego we reject it. (Even if it is a helpful piece of information.)

If a criticism is delivered, wrapped in chocolate, we are more likely to accept it.  So the question is, how do you separate good criticism from bad?  How do we remove our own ego?  We can’t.

As much as I would like to say you need to logically evaluate every criticism you get, you can’t.  Even if you’re related to Spock, it is unlikely you will be able to put an unbiased ear toward criticism.  But there is a better way: Pay attention to how long it lingers.

If the criticism sticks around in your mind, it is clearly something that is important to you.  Something perhaps you need to embrace.  Conversely, if the criticism (even though it was wrapped in chocolate) is quickly forgotten, it likely should be just that. . . forgotten.


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