Correction Over Criticism

The idea that comes to mind is more of a question really. And the question is simple. The question is how do we keep on moving? How do we start all over? Or wait, how do we go back to the old drawing board? Or, how do we grow stronger or stand taller after we’ve fallen down. I mean, let’s face it; it’s tough to get back up sometimes. It’s tough, especially when you’ve been hurt so badly that you’re not sure if you can stand back up again? But you have to get back up. Right?
Like it or not, no one can lay down forever. You have to keep going. Isn’t that what people say?

I say this because it is important to acknowledge there are countless times when although we might know we can’t quit, our spirit is either beaten or broken. The fact remains there are times when our aches and pains weaken our resolve.
There are times when the criticism cuts deeply, like a hot knife, and even the whispers of criticisms can sting us like a cat scratch on a bad sunburn. 

There was a post that I saw on social media, which said, “When you keep criticizing your kids, they don’t stop loving you. They stop loving themselves.” And, as a parent I can say this is true. As someone who was once a child, I can say this is especially true but as a divorced parent; I can say this is exceptionally true. But moreover, as a worker and as a human in this world, our abilities to offer criticism can either build or destroy a person’s spirit.

The question I have seen other speakers handle and the main question at hand is: How can we correct without criticizing? Or, (and here’s the real question) how can we encourage or inspire improvement without shaming or defeating a person. This is the trick.

Let’s face it, this goes beyond parenthood. This goes beyond friendships and basic interpersonal relationships. This goes on in our love life. This goes on in our workplace yet, it’s not fair if we have to walk on eggshells.
It’s not fair if we can’t say our thoughts or deliver information.
But nevertheless, we have to remain conscious of our criticisms. We have to understand that there are constructive ways to deliver our message and there are times when our message is less helpful or constructive. As such, our opinions are only a reflection of our biases. 

The three popular questions that help our relationships are:
Does this need to be said?
Does this need to be said by me?
Does this need to be said by me now?

These are great questions. In fact, if we look at our opinions carefully, we might find that there is inventory within ourselves which might be why we find the need to correct or give an opinion.
But . . .
One thing I have seen is that even with the best of intentions, our opinions are not always necessary. But more, our opinions are not always wanted. Let’s look at this honestly. Most opinions are often unsolicited. But yet, people still offer their point of view as if their way is the right way (or the only way). However, the world is not a linear place.
I was thinking about a criticism that I received a short while back. And the words behind this were troublesome for me.
Now, this is interesting because I know the person. I know about their opinions and their views. I know who they are yet, rather than consider the intentions of the messenger, which were hostile and passive aggressive to at least some degree, I allowed this to cut me deep and knock me down. 

So, there are two inventories here. There is me and my view and them and their view. Neither are dependent upon each other and the imbalance of approval shows that our opinions and emotions are hinged upon each other.
Here’s what I mean:
My inventory is based on the fear that I am wrong or failing and because of this, I have fears of rejection and exposure. As for the other side of this well, this really has nothing to do with me. This person is none of my business. Certainly their criticism is unnecessary and nothing more than useless information from a person whose opinion and harshness comes from their judgment of themselves.

And me, well, I have to deal with myself.
Not them or anyone else.
In some of my groups, we have discussed the harshness of criticisms. And I’ve asked the question, would anyone be offended if someone who was living with Tourette syndrome and yelled or cursed uncontrollably – if they were to curse you, would you be offended?
Of course, the answer was no.
I asked why?
The answers are usually, because that person cannot help themselves. 

Ah, so then the answer is if a person is unwell and says something mean or cruel, both viciously and uncontrollably – then it’s okay because this comes from a person who has a debilitating problem.
Is this right?

It can be said that people who have harsh criticisms or who are overly critical and defaming might not have Tourette Syndrome; however, this does not mean that they are healthy either.
I have learned and it has been shown that our relationship with our personal mental health can and will often dictate our tolerance and patience. Therefore, the way we think and feel does have an impact on the way we deliver our criticism. Our state of wellness has a direct connection to whether our criticisms are constructive or otherwise. If we have the ability to look into ourselves from an honest perspective, we will see this is true.

First and foremost, it is important to understand that people do not always think or feel or believe the way we do. Another important aspect to understand is that people do not always interpret information in the same regard. And simply because we see something or think something, this does not mean that everyone else around us thinks or feels the same way. 

I know what professionalism looks like to me. I know what I believe is right and wrong. I know my position on fair and unfair as well as what I find appropriate and inappropriate.
But this is me.
I have seen evidence that harsh or overly critical people come to their opinion by way of their own reflection, which means this is about them. And not about anyone else.

But for the moment, let’s scale this wider than my perspective. Let’s look at this on a bigger stage and take this idea to our daily playing field.

How often are we being critical and how often are we being helpful? 
How often is our criticism a reflection of criticisms that we have received? Since we were told that we need to improve or that we have a weakness, is this the reason why we offer our opinion?

Is this a case of “If I went through it . . . then so will you!”
Let’s start with a basic approach to our personal inventory:
What is our motivation?
What is the intention of our opinion?
And why?
Is this to help build?
Or, is this similar to the crab in the bucket. The crab at the bottom pulls another crab down just before escaping the top, just so they don’t get boiled in the pot alone. 

I have seen new employees come on a job and watched supervisors who were unkind to me be kind to them. I have seen people allow for their inexperience yet when it came to my inexperience – I was yelled at.
(I remember thinking, What the hell?)
I use this as an example to help illustrate a bias in our criticisms. Put simply, this means that I have inventory, which links me back to old or unresolved tensions.
Or, this points out a defect of professional immaturity, which is almost like two kids bickering at each other and saying, “Well, they started it!”
Two wrongs don’t make a right, right?

Our passive little tantrums are more of a reflection upon us, which again, I will ask what is our motivation to voice our opinion? What is our intention and why?
There is no law that says there is only one way to live life. There is also no law that says we all have to face the same trials and tribulations.

In my program called Empowering Life Strategies, we talk about communication and address confrontation. We talk about dismantling the attitude. This is us. This is our inventory and our biases. This is our need to be heard and rather than have a biased response or intention, we remove our judgment to listen openly. In order to form a better bond and improve our relationship skills, we learn to listen objectively and not subjectively.
The second part of this practice is to disarm the argument. This is the person we are addressing. Rather than interpret, convict or condemn, we can utilize our motivational skills by asking open ended questions. We want to remove shame and insert understanding. This is a strong way to correct over criticizing.
Therefore, we want to pose non-judgmental and open-ended questions.
(Look up motivational interviewing. I swear, this is a helpful tool that boosts communication skills.)

There are times when criticisms are cruel and should they be intended to be cruel then my entry here will fall on deaf ears and this is not for you. However, in the case that we want to improve ourselves and our efforts to communicate, productively advise and inform. There are ways to promote correction over criticism. And by the way, this does more than make someone a great leader, teacher, parent and friend. This builds production and creates stronger relationships. Plus, this makes us better people to each other.

Don’t believe me?
Go around someone who criticizes your every move. See how much you like being around them. Then speak to a person who supports you or is inspired to encourage you in a constructive manner.
Who do you think you’d prefer to be around?

It’s hard to stand up when you’ve been cut down . . .
I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks so.



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