Monday, May 22, 2006

Curious about Criticism - How Much Is Part of Your Life?

In yesterday’s Michael Masterson’s ETR newsletter, Matt Furey wrote the following, “Do your best to avoid personal attacks on yourself and others. Start observing yourself a little more closely. Take note of when you get sucked into discussions about others that are nothing more than personal attacks. And when you find yourself in such a situation, say to yourself, "Wait a minute. I'm wasting my time. Instead of attacking this person, I should be making MY life better."

Actually, he wrote a full article about how he once was very critical, but now realizes that it is a “major waste of time.”

I submit to you that it is even more than that - it can and often is an enemy builder.

I used to teach a class called, Breaking the Conversation Barrier, and referred to Dale Carnegie’s suggestion to avoid the “three Cs.” They are:
  • Complaining - no one wants to stay for long around someone who complains all of the time.
  • Condemning - this is someone who pre-judges others, which, of course leads to the third,
  • Criticizing

Carnegie even gave an example from his past. A man wrote him an uncalled-for critical letter which Carnegie never forgot or forgave.

Winston Churchill gave criticism importance by stating, “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

However, I agree that in some cases it may be necessary, but in most, it doesn’t work to advantage. When we are critical of ourselves - how often have you let your “monkey mind” dictate? - we can be stopped in our tracks from any kind of accomplishment and/or risk that will have a huge payoff.

In my usual quest for quotations, I found many that dealt with softening or avoiding criticism:

  • Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man's growth without destroying his roots.” - Frank A. Clark
  • The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” - Norman Vincent Peale
  • I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.” - Charles Schwab
  • We protest against unjust criticism, but we accept unearned applause.” - Jose Narosky
  • People ask for criticism, but they only want praise.” - W. Somerset Maugham

Yet, I did find many thought provoking and pushing to action quotations:

  • To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” - Elbert Hubbard
  • The dread of criticism is the death of genius.” - William Gilmore Simms
  • Time and time again I was told that I would never make the film on time and never make it on budget. That kind of criticism tends to turn me into a great big motor of efficiency.” - Richard E. Grant
  • To silence criticism is to silence freedom.” - Sidney Hook

And then there are the politically expressed quotations:

  • To announce that there must be no criticism of the president... is morally treasonable to the American public.” - Theodore Roosevelt
  • Know that the amount of criticism you receive may correlate somewhat to the amount of publicity you receive.” - Donald Rumsfeld

I will leave you with an interesting thought from Henry David Thoreau, “I am sorry to think that you do not get a man's most effective criticism until you provoke him. Severe truth is expressed with some bitterness.”