Do not be afraid of criticism – It is part of every process
This is a famous quote by Aristotle on criticism. If one does not want to be criticized then one needs to say nothing, do nothing and eventually be nothing. This concludes that if we want to become something, no matter what, we need to be able to receive and deal with criticism. Oftentimes, that is difficult. Criticism carries a negative connotation, because it implies that something has been done badly… even if that is not always the case. Our perception of criticism is important.
negative perception of criticism
Here, a personal story fits perfectly. In my first semester of my studies I wrote a term paper and got a pretty decent grade. My professor added feedback to the grade. I did not read the feedback until I entered the fourth semester. I had an arrogant stance towards the feedback, because I thought that it had been a very good term paper. There could not be anything written in the feedback that could help me become better. This is what I thought at least… and that was far from the truth.
After reading the feedback I realized that it was a stupid decision not to read it immediately when receiving it. Eventually, it contained a lot of useful criticism that I could have used in the following term papers I needed to write. I made some of the same mistakes multiple times, even though I could have prevented them if I had not been so closed minded.
This is the negative perception of criticism. A person thinking that criticism will hold one back instead of improve their skills and enhance their knowledge. The truth is that in most cases it is the other way around.
positive perception of criticism
Positive perception of criticism, contrarily, helps us improve our skills and enhance our knowledge. Feedback usually comes from a person with experience. In my case it was my professor who assessed my term paper, therefore I could have trusted him of being objective in his assessment. He is the professor and I am the student. He is in the position I may want to be in the future, that is to say that I need to use his knowledge in order to improve. My professor is the product of the people that taught him what he knows. I write about the accumulation of knowledge in an earlier blogpost called “Limitless Potential“. In my academic future, I will be the product of all my professors. Therefore, I am in a lucky position to learn from experts, for this reason I should feel grateful getting helpful feedback and criticism from those experts.
Ultimately, the criticism that we will get from experts will be the one that will turn ourselves into experts in the future. We will be the ones giving feedback and we may also one day be in a position to criticize our own critics, even though that should not be the primary goal. The primary goal is to use the criticism to our advantage by evaluating it.
Criticism, even the one coming from experts, should be analyzed and critically evaluated, because experts are not perfect either. In a “teacher/professor – student” relationship the power clearly belongs to the first group. But criticism does not always come from people who are necessarily more knowledgeable than us.
By actively criticizing someones criticism we are throwing the ball back at them. They will (hopefully) be in a position of explaining their criticism in more detail and reevaluating it. This process can be continued until an impasse has been reached. A third or fourth critic would enhance the process and enrich the end result. This is why an active analysis, evaluation and criticism of criticism is the ideal approach.
Finally, any work that we have created is now its own entity. We will undoubtedly have a more intimate and affectionate perception of it. Nevertheless, we should see it as an entity separate from us. Criticism of the work, therefore, is no personal criticism. Being open to negative feedback will help us improve the work that we have created. Just like a boy turning into an adult, gentle man, and a girl turning into an adult, cultivated woman, our original work will mature into something more sophisticated.
Acknowledging and having a positive perception of criticism is the right mindset to have, because it will help us increase the knowledge and improve the skills for more productivity.
In addition, analyzing, evaluating, and criticizing criticism itself, will create a process of cumulative knowledge. This is not always possible, but when it is, we should use it.