Criticism can be broadly divided into two categories.
Criticism can be feedback or it can be an intentional (sometimes unintentional) a personalized cutting message the difference which is only made clear by tone of voice, body language.
Criticism shapes people. No one likes to be criticized. It always stings to some degree. The short and long term response to the criticism is something we’ll talk about today.
The person who can accomplish in spite of ill-intended intense criticism is you.
There’s no doubt about it, being criticized can be maddening. This is particularly true when the criticism is public and poisonous.
You hate it and rightfully so.
Last week, you read about Achievement and the Self Regulation Factor.
A snappy recap: Self regulation is not an attitude or a feeling. It is a discipline. It is DO-UNTIL. Self regulation is Do-In Spite Of.
Self Regulation is what can make great people great. It’s what makes good people good and bad people bad. It is a learned skill that is psychologically reinforced one way or the other.
That means you reward good behavior and as sure night follows day, you get good future behavior.
You bail out banks and auto companies and you reward the corrupt and inept to continue to fail. The science is that simple.
Overconfidence and the need for it’s eradication was next..
Why? Confidence is good isn’t it?
<–Under Confidence–Confidence–Certainty–Over Confidence–Arrogance–>
The research shows that significantly Under-Confident people simply can’t achieve. Where there is no belief in the self or it is very small, self regulation never has an opportunity to engage.
On the other side of the continuum, The Over-Confident person OFTEN achieves for a brief period, but then falls and falls hard.
Self Confidence based on consistent performance is highly correlated with financial and relationship success.
Over-confidence and arrogance are necessarily the same characteristic but both are highly correlated with success and then failure.
And today, criticism…
…I’m just like you. I don’t like criticism (even “constructive criticism”) and I don’t like rejection (even constructive rejection….oh yeah…there is no constructive rejection).
Achievement Factor #3: Mastering Criticism
Could it be that controlling your reaction to criticism is THE determining factor in achievement?
Why do kids (or grown up kids) quit or fail to achieve?
When little kids are really little, they fail immediately at walking, talking, manners, riding a bike, playing a game, making decisions, adding, subtracting, running into the wall, …everything. There is nothing a child gets right.
They can’t possibly accomplish anything on first try as they have never done it before.
How the parents and the people in the environment deal with that chronic failure (learning experiences) is in large part going to shape that child’s potential for success.
What happens that is so formulaic that 99% of children learn to walk, talk, ride a bike, make decisions, add, subtract and stop running into walls? How is that these children with no internal references are ultimately succeeding where adults typically and ultimately fail.
There are at least a couple of factors that intertwine that seem to matter most.
1) There is a parent (some adult) that is there to help the child get up and tell the child they can do “it.” “Try it again little one, you can do it.” There is no uncertainty in the parent’s voice. The parent knows the pre-toddler CAN and WILL toddle, it’s just a matter of trying 100 times and then doing it. And even then toddling ends in a fall. The child hurts but as the child toddles the fall doesn’t hurt half as much as you think it does. That child WANTS to walk. She sees YOU walk and she KNOWS it is part of her identity to walk and talk just like you. And you are there at every single fall/failure to help the child back up and do it again…until.
You could have criticized and said, “You talentless moron. You fell while you were walking, what the heck is wrong with you.”
But for some reason you don’t.
2) Children don’t give up like adults do. They haven’t learned that they aren’t supposed to quit at some point until they are taught to quit trying by their parents.
The child cries. The child is frustrated. Frustration is a good thing. A very good thing, just like it is with adults!
The parent brings the baby what the baby wants. Now the child has been satisfied and learns that she doesn’t need to go get what she wants on her own. The child learns and then achieves.
“If at first you don’t succeed try, try again.”
Thank God my Mom got that one right.
Then in most families, time passed and so did the style of parenting.
Some parents blew it and chose to say things like this:
“You will never get it right.”
“You are learning disabled, don’t worry about it. No one expects you to do a good job.”
“You can’t do anything right, can you?”
Pick a phrase. They were all destructive.
Criticism can be verbal and immediate, it can be nonverbal and immediately processed or it can be hidden and not blow up until later.
Or…the child was simply given what she wanted. That’s the same as criticism. It tells the child she can’t get it on her own so you are doing it for her. The difference? The parent becomes the drug pusher. This implicit criticism backfires.
None of us like to do things that we fail at. We get embarrassed and we get criticized when we do a bad…or sometimes even when we do a good… job.
What’s so fascinating about criticism and why it’s so necessary to MASTER YOUR REACTIONS TO IT is that the criticism itself, true or false, is BEYOND YOUR CONTROL.
You do absolutely nothing “wrong” and….you can get criticized.
It makes your head spin.
That is the real world.
And you hear enough criticism in a week that could fill a year.
Once you’ve started the big project, a new venture, something that you haven’t done before, someone one some group of someone’s is going to criticize you.
People who ultimately fail rarely get criticized in any significant way.
Meanwhile, that someone or group of someones will remain free from criticism by doing absolutely nothing.
People who don’t want to get criticized never fail because they never do anything they don’t already know how to do.
Perhaps this notion will be surprising to you:
If you want to achieve or accomplish anything you are implicitly inviting criticism..
It shouldn’t be that way.
It should be the opposite.
But life rarely plays out as it should when the human element is involved.
Because criticism can feel so painful, very few people will choose the path that has critics on it. Therefore, the path to achievement is generally a very clear road to travel IF you choose to handle rejection and criticism…and…you CAN!
A few years ago I saw Jessica Simpson on the cover of one of the Celeb magazines I do body language analysis for. The cover story was that she was fat. There was a photograph of her in a pair of the goofiest damn pants I’ve seen on a good lookin’ girl in a long time. She clearly was tipping the scales at 120. Probably put on 10 pounds since her Dukes of Hazzard gig a couple of years ago.
There was nothing to analyze. She put on 10 pounds. I couldn’t have cared less. I declined the “oppotunity” to talk about the 10 pounds.
Simpson was a glowing example of what it is like to be criticized for having hurt no one and doing no wrong.
To this day, she’s got a target on her chest (and other asset areas) primed and destined for criticism. She does too many things well, and of course, she looks good which is always…bad.
The competition loves to shred you.
On a side note, over the last few years my respect for this girl has gone up geometrically.
I’m one of those people who not only remembers and appreciates a pretty face but I really respect people who do cool stuff for people that they don’t have to do.
To avoid criticism, people stay within their comfort zone or they do precisely what is anticipated and they simply get no negative “feedback.”
No one can succeed or achieve anything if they can’t cope in some way with criticism. The greater the number of people you will be seen by, the more you will be criticized.
So just how do you master criticism?
The short answer: You have to first feel your emotions as you hear the criticism. Don’t fight back. Don’t shout. Don’t scream. Don’t leave blood stains.
You want to step back and first determine three things:
- Was the critic correct in their assessment?
- Did they intend to cause you pain?
- Do you care about them as a person?
Were they even close to right? Is it possible the evaluation of you or your work has any merit at all? Even a LITTLE?
If not, it’s unwarranted and it isn’t criticism, it’s jerkism.
How Wide Has The Net Been Set?
Next we have to determine if the person was criticizing you as a person or whatever it was you “did.” In other words, they might not like your painting but are they saying you are a bad artist because your painting isn’t so great in their opinion…or…are they saying THIS painting isn’t so hot?
People who throw wide nets are jerks, and their criticism is rarely, if ever, worth listening to.
Finally, do they truly care about you as a person and do you care about them?
We get criticized every day by people who love us, but taking it from people who don’t…should rarely hit the radar all that much. It’s not that the loved one’s radar is more effective. In fact, loved ones tend to be biased against each other in their criticism. But the value of loved ones is worth investing in. The criticism of someone who doesn’t care is not.
If the critic was correct (or close), then you will look at the painful communication as useful if not very irritating and mean spirited. (No matter how useful, the criticism will always sting. Everyone hates being told they are wrong or stupid.)
“John, that wasn’t your best work.”
Internal response: Screw U. We worked endless hours putting that together and it’s the best work you’ll ever see.
External response: “Which work have you liked best and what was it about them that made them special?”
Taking focus off a singular negative and split-screening it with an experience that was equally as positive can reduce criticism, and, unnecessary hard feelings.
When Do People Criticize?
People criticize you when one of a few things happen.
The person didn’t like what you did for whatever reason and they feel compelled to tell you. Usually they make this known publicly. i.e. They are idiots.
- Sometimes the person thinks they are teaching you something.
- Sometimes they want to feel superior to whatever it was you said.
- Sometimes they want to help you.
- Sometimes they care about you and don’t want you to look bad to anyone else.
No matter the root, criticism hurts a little…, hurts a lot or it is excruciating.
I can’t recall many times people came straight out with criticism and I went, “oh yeah, man do I feel better now!”
That said, you NEED criticism to succeed.
Your goal is NOT to please everyone.
It’s not even to please 50% of the people.
Your goal is to serve your audience, the people you serve. It is to be your friend’s compassionate and valuable friend. It is to be your customer’s appreciated servant.
One of the biggest reasons people fail is because they continue to attend to what one person out of a group might say that they didn’t like. One person in a group will *always* be polar to you.
The most valuable criticism I receive is from those people who I consult with, my most loyal customers. I pay close attention to them because I know they have my best interests at heart just as I have theirs at heart.
When you hear criticism from your customers and clients, you MUST listen.
That does NOT mean they are “right.” It means no such thing.
It means you listen.
When possible, you make the person who criticized you a hero.
Face it. When one person who cares about you texts, writes and criticizes you, someone else WAS very possibly thinking the same thing.
Remember: The only way you can never be criticized, is to do nothing.
People often criticize when they feel THEIR OWN self-esteem threatened. They compare themselves to you and see that they don’t want to discipline themselves to do what you have done. They criticize to “throw a dart” to make themselves feel better.
It’s their idea of unconscious justice.
Here are some criticisms and complaints I’ve gotten over the years and how I responded. The first thing I do is to see if it is about “me.” If it is “personal,” then I figure out just what the criticism might mean. Here we go…
“Kevin, these CD’s are great but the paper labels can get stuck in the car CD player.”
10 years ago I heard that several times in the summer. Maybe it was the heat of the cars, maybe it was faulty labels. Didn’t matter. I hated the paper labels. They were, at the time, an irritating necessity. I heard that for a few weeks and didn’t need to hear it again. We switched to shiny face CD’s.
“Kevin, the manual got here with the package but it was ripped up in the mailing process.”
We switched to putting ALL MANUALS onto CD-Rom. That way a person can print them out as many times as they want. They can take their manual on their computer with them wherever they go. We’ve never had a complaint since.
“Kevin, my program still hasn’t arrived and I’m ticked off. It’s been two weeks. What’s going on there?”
Well obviously nothing is going on “there.” The problem is out of our control. The person paid for a specific type of mailing service. We ship same day and their country postal system (or UPS system) simply is terrible.
This happens about 15 times per year. We always write back and explain in gentle terms the program was shipped instantly as requested and if the package doesn’t arrive shortly we will send another one. About half the time we send another one and the original package arrives a day or two later of course.
I feel bad for the customer. I hate waiting for things in the mail too. But this criticism is misdirected because they don’t know how to complain to their postal service. (Don’t worry it is a waste of time…they don’t listen. You fill out a form… and they throw it away… I think!)
When criticism is misdirected, you have to try and solve the complaint against you.
Then there are other kinds of criticism….oh man…
What about criticism that’s more personal in nature?
Comments can be more “personal” in nature.
When you are a public speaker who speaks before audiences all over the world about everything from sales, to negotiation to ethnic diversity to motivation, there are always people somewhere in that audience that had a very bad day. Maybe someone died in their family. Maybe they got yelled at by a spouse. Maybe they got a demotion. Who knows.
They are predictably inclined to vent.
They take their pain out on you.
It’s part of playing football. If you don’t want to ever get hit, then don’t put a football uniform on. You are going to get hit.
Criticism disarms all of us, but it need not destroy us.
When someone has made the decision to start a business or make a change in their life or try new material with the audience, you KNOW it’s going to happen.
The reality is that it is a leading cause of death and yet… most criticism is meaningless.
Criticism should never stop you in your tracks. NEVER allow criticism to de-motivate.
Successful people use criticism as leverage to excel and do better, make a better product, improve service and make more money.
When people criticize in public, it can be particularly painful. But many people…ENOUGH people will almost always disagree with the person criticizing you.
Criticism must never, ever stand in between you and achievement.
If the fact of the communication is valid, then make the changes necessary. If it’s not, feel free to appreciate their point of view and share yours and thank them for their feedback. It rarely makes sense to argue or debate your critic.
Once publicly stated, will they change their mind?
Of course not!
See you next week!
I’ve identified 12 of the life patterns which cause us to trip up – and make the same mistakes again and again. To discover which of the 12 patterns you have been the victim of and how to eliminate self-sabotage in your life (or those of your clients) you can pick up the program below.
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by Kevin Hogan
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