In every conversation there is an opportunity for change. Our friends help us transform through their perspectives. People we admire demonstrate how we may polish and improve ourselves through their example. Another great tool of friendship is constructive criticism. It’s part of healthy sharing that fills a mutually respectful bond. However, there are times when the universe, or other people, may use criticism for harm. This can look like offering unsolicited opinions, treating another person as less than yourself, or ignoring your shared humanity. When this happens what is most important is how you choose to respond. Here are some simple steps to help you interpret and evaluate constructive criticism.
Consider the Source
I make a point to never accept criticism from someone I would not go to for advice. If you would not go to them for guidance, do not accept their criticism. It is irrelevant and invalid. Move on.
Consider the Context
If you were asking for critique from someone you respect and they offer constructive criticism you may choose to accept it. However, if the comment is unprompted, uninvited, or unwelcome – Move on.
Consider the Intent
If a critique is from a source you respect and was invited, consider if it is within the context of care. If a comment is given in love you may choose to let it change your perspective and your heart. In this way you may grow and learn to be the best version of yourself possible. If a comment is not offered in love, and let us remember that even those we love may offer criticism from a place of defense or fear, do not accept it. Move on.
Sit with It
If a comment checks the first three boxes and you feel ready to accept and consider the critique sit with it. Let yourself feel your feelings. Consider if you agree or if there’s something you have missed and determine how you want to proceed. Discern if there is a problem you could fix. Is there a strategy you might apply in the future to do things differently?
Apologize if Necessary
If an apology is required, offer it. Bearing in mind that apologies include not only a promise, “not to do it again,” but also a commitment, “this is how I will behave differently in the future.” It is also important to share, “I am taking X steps to improve.” We don’t need to bear the burden of every comment or judgement sent our way. How exhausting and what a waste of time and energy!
It is a lot of responsibility to ask for for conscientious criticism. However, trusting someone to tell us when we need to modify our behavior or feel we may have been in the wrong is a big responsibility. Using the guideposts above should help us to move forward more authentically and with healthy boundaries. We do well by ourselves, and our relationships, to consider the simple points above to help us move forward on our own path, toward our own goals and grounded in our personal truths.
“What’s the point in having a mind if you never change it?” Allowing ourselves to be molded and shaped by the people we love can help us all become better people. When has someone else’s critique helped you to improve or grow?