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  • Writer's pictureLara Ozarslan

What's wrong with criticism?

What's your Feedback Flavor?

Lately I have been reading quite a bit about the differences between feedback and criticism. How do you differentiate between constructive criticism and feedback? What for you is brutal, honesty, radical transparency? Do we really enable growth with feedback and get knocked down with criticism?

Well until recently I would have argued with you that I feel concerned with people that are not able to deal with criticism. Criticism can be a good thing if it is constructive and if we are strong enough to embrace our imperfections. I don’t even know where the word "perfection" exists in the dictionary. Perfection is a made up word and has a different meaning to me.. to you and it's impossible to achieve… well this will be another topic of discussion later. If we don’t like criticism, we positively hate being not good enough for someone who matters to us. So next time you are giving or getting criticism (@work or in your personal live), stop for a second and remember what’s really going on. It’s only partly about the work itself. The rest is about us. If we make each other better, the work will inevitably reflect it. So maybe constructive criticism then can be in the form of thoughtful feedback? Often people do give us good insights into our own actions that we are not aware of.

Of course we can also flip the coin and can say that people that criticise us do it from a point of fear and frustration. Maybe we can call this "poor feedback" too? As Oscar Wilde nicely said, “Criticism is the only reliable form of autobiography." It tells you more about the psychology of the critic than the people he or she criticises. If COURAGE is a value you hold criticism is a consequence you cannot avoid. If you are going into the arena, there will always be someone that will inspire you to stay small. I strongly think that if I am are operating from a place of my best humanity and fighting for my dreams and the person (whether it be work or elsewhere) is sitting in the cheap seat just talking about how I could do better, then I am in no way interested to hear what they have to say. So maybe then the following: "If you are not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I am not interested.." ;) holds some truth.

There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing and be nothing!

Th Feedback Fallacy

I will not be delving into how feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement and how impactful it CAN be depending on the information content conveyed (which, when, how)… but rather give some food for thought.

Research from Harvard Business Review (2020) depicts that while managers have been encouraged for years to candidly praise and criticise just about everything workers do, data shows that people cannot reliably rate the performance of others: More than 50% of your rating of someone reflects your characteristics, not theirs. Managers will never produce great performance by identifying what they think is failure and telling people how to correct it.

Instead, when managers see a great outcome, they should turn to the person who created it, say, “Yes! That!,” and share their impression of WHY it was a success. Neuroscience shows that we grow most when people focus on our strengths. So can we maybe say that even the best feedback can bring out the worst in us ... so it is all about the right balance?

Mastering it

We have to start limiting self-criticism, complaining and whining! Try to not complain verbally for one day. Monitor your speech for one single day and you will see what I am talking about.

Good book recommendations: "7 Day Mental Diet" by Emma Fox and of course "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz.

  1. Be impeccable with your word

  2. Don’t take anything personally

  3. Don’t make assumptions

  4. Always do your best

A final question to think about?

What would you try if you knew people would never say "this or that about you"? What would that be? And then, go do it - because why not? Even Dalai Lama and Gandhi got criticised and look at what they have accomplished.


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