Advertising

The Lost Art of Criticism

Advertising
The Lost Art of Criticism

How often do you look up people’s opinions and reviews about movies before you watch them? In this day and age, it’s so easy for everyone to write out their opinion on something and post it on the internet. So in the case of movies, pretty much anyone can be a ‘movie critic’.

But a lot of these people openly criticize newly released movies without real concrete reasons to back up their points of view. Most of the time, people only see things from a personal perspective and their own feelings about it rather than forming different perspectives and providing a critical structure towards the film. Criticism is an art but an art that’s getting lost in a sea of personal opinions.

Roger Ebert was the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. The Pulitzer Prize for Criticism is a prestigious award presented since 1970 to critics who have demonstrated ‘distinguished criticism’. Ebert won due to his “relative, not absolute” critical approach to films.

Advertising

    In other words, when he reviewed a film, he did it from the point of view of its prospective audience as well as the film’s value as a whole.

    The Damage of Biased Opinions

    We all have opinions and like to express them and the internet makes it much easier for more people to voice their strong points of view. There are many people who are more informed or knowledgable than others but this isn’t a ticket to being right with their opinions. It’s still subjective criticism if it isn’t done in a professional and trained way therefore bias rears its head in most cases resulting in a limiting, single perspective.

      Bias is natural for us and hard to rein in. In neurological terms, the brain has limited information processing capacity.[1] This means we actually believe we know more than we actually do and we have a tendency to embrace only information that supports our own belief and so “confirmation bias” is formed. This allows many of us to enter a state of assumption or relying on common ‘facts’ to back up our belief without seeking disconfirming evidence. It’s in this state that we create the “I’m right and you’re wrong” way of thinking.

      Advertising

        While people giving out their idea of criticism may seem harmless, the danger of this is the general dismissal and lack of credibility within a critical review. The main point of constructive, unbiased criticism in anything is to create an improvement but if we don’t know the true art of delivering criticism, the people receiving the criticism can easily dismiss it and not use it to build on improving.

          What Exactly is Good Criticism?

          The basis of good criticism is positive intention. This means it’s presented as a form of communication with the intent of understanding others or helping others to improve in a positive direction.

          Advertising

          Anyone who puts their creative work out there should be open to ways of improvement and growth. Good, constructive criticism is in place to allow the creator to gain more perspective and help them to make their next set of choices.

          Valued criticism should also be objective and come from a space of taking in different perspectives. This means being able to recognise that there isn’t one universal opinion but recognising there are many possible and valuable points of view to take into consideration.

          Fully understanding the intention of what you’re forming a critical eye about is key to sensible criticism. Measuring how good or bad something is requires knowledge about the true intent behind what the creator is trying to get across.

          Lastly, respecting other points of view is essential. Good criticism never comes from a standard perspective but takes into account different ways of seeing something and acknowledging other approaches of thinking than your own.

          Advertising

            A Guide to Good Criticism: Giving It Out and Taking It

            The ability to be a good critic will add to the world because you can really create improvement and growth. Taking criticism can be hard, but if you do this with an open mind and in a constructive way, you can really add value to your own growth and direction.

            Giving Criticism

            1. Make sure you fully understand the intentions and goals behind what you’re looking at.
            2. Be mindful of your personal opinion and realise that it doesn’t determine the quality of something.
            3. Avoid focusing on only the flaws and be sure to pay the same amount of attention to the good qualities. This creates an important element of motivation and encouragement for the one being criticised.

            Taking Criticism

            Advertising

            1. Listen and be as open as possible to what’s being said. It’s important to get as many perspectives as possible in order to gain a fuller picture and identify growth.
            2. Ask clarifying questions with the intention of fully understanding what they are communicating to you. It’s very easy to shut off and make judgements about their opinion if you feel it’s wrong. Make sure you’re clear about what they mean and then process what they’re saying.
            3. Ask for suggestions for improvement but stay true to your original goals. Don’t change entire areas just to keep someone else happy but keep them aligned with your initial outlook and intention.
            4. Be in control by choosing someone who you know has the ability to give good and constructive criticism. This doesn’t mean someone who you know will have a biased towards you but someone who is honest and wants the best for you in terms of growth and improvement.

            Next time you give an opinion, read someone else’s opinion or take criticism, be mindful of the perspective it’s coming from. Ask yourself if your or their opinion is bias, fuelled by emotion or a limited perspective. Take into account more than one perspective and understand what the true intentions of what you’re seeing is trying to convey. Taking criticism can be hard but make sure it’s coming from an honest source and be open to improvements for positive growth.

            Featured photo credit: Freepik via freepik.com

            Reference

            [1] ScienceDirect: Trends in Cognitive Sciences

            More by this author

            Anna Chui

            Anna is the Chief Editor and Content Strategist of Lifehack. She's also a communication expert who shares tips on motivation and relationships.

            The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You The Purpose Of Friendship: The Only 4 Types Of Friends You Need In Life How Self-Doubt Keeps You Stuck (And How to Overcome It) How to Live Life to the Fullest and Enjoy Each Day 30 Books Everyone Should Read At Least Once In Their Lives

            Trending in Social Animal

            1 How to Use the Law of Reciprocity for Effective Persuasion 2 What Will Happen When You Surround Yourself With Positive People? 3 How to Surround Yourself With Positive People 4 How to Create Social Goals to Make an Impact in the World 5 The Lifehack Show: Improving Social Skills with Dr. Daniel Wendler

            Read Next

            Advertising
            Advertising

            Last Updated on July 20, 2021

            How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

            Advertising
            How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

            You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

            Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

            Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

            Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

            1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

            According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

            “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

            Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

            Warming up

            If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

            If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

            Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

            Advertising

            1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
            2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
            3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

            Stay hydrated

            Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

            To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

            Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

            Meditate

            Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

            Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

            Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

            Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

            2. Focus on your goal

            One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

            Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

            Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

            Advertising

            Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

            If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

            3. Convert negativity to positivity

            There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

            ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

            It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

            Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

            Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

            Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

            4. Understand your content

            Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

            Advertising

            However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

            “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

            Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

            Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

            One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

            5. Practice makes perfect

            Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

            In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

            Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

            6. Be authentic

            There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

            Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

            Advertising

            Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

            To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

            With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

            Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

            7. Post speech evaluation

            Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

            Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

            We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

            You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

            Improve your next speech

            As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

            Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

            Advertising

            • How did I do?
            • Are there any areas for improvement?
            • Did I sound or look stressed?
            • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
            • Was I saying “um” too often?
            • How was the flow of the speech?

            Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

            If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

            Reference

            Read Next