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Why a Criticism Is Better Than a Compliment

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Why a Criticism Is Better Than a Compliment

Think back to the last time you received a compliment and the last time you were criticized. No doubt, when you received the compliment, you felt good – and when you received the criticism, you felt upset and wanted to reject it.

You shouldn’t be surprised by your reaction to the negative comment, as it’s a human’s survival mechanism to avoid being criticized. Clearly, we don’t want to be seen as failures, so we’d rather shut our eyes and cover our ears than have to take any criticisms from others.

However, there’s a serious problem with this approach. Namely, by doing our utmost to avoid being criticized, we allow ourselves to travel on a never-ending highway of mediocrity.

Without receiving negative feedback and criticisms from others, our growth and opportunities become stunted. And in the long term, we’re not only liable to fail – but to fail badly.

The Microsoft KIN is an example of how lacking criticisms leads to a great failure. Launched in 2010, this smartphone was a major failure despite its $1 billion development and marketing costs. Unbelievably, the phone only lasted on the market for 48 days. The problem? Microsoft failed to do comprehensive testing of the smartphone with the target demographic. It was only after the phone went on sale that it became blatantly obvious that most 15 to 30-year-olds preferred Androids, BlackBerrys and iPhones to the Microsoft KIN.[1]

If criticism and feedback had been received by the target demographic while the phone was in development, Microsoft could have avoided the huge embarrassment and financial loss that occurred. As the story above demonstrates, early criticism is a necessary factor for future success.

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Excessive praise weakens your motivation

I believe that criticism is better than compliments. But why do I think that? Well, let me give you a metaphor that will explain my rationale.

Picture in your mind praise being a type of health food. Now, no one would argue that healthy nutrition is a bad thing. However, what’s good for you in small or measured dosages can be bad for you if you take too much of it. You may be surprised to hear this even applies to your water consumption.[2] And your fruit consumption too.[3]

    Clearly, too much food or drink – no matter how healthy they may be – can make us ill. For optimum health, we need a balanced intake of healthy food and drink.

    It’s the same with compliments. Receiving them from time-to-time is a good thing, but if they’re all you ever hear, then they’re likely to have a negative impact on your ability to achieve things in life.

    Excessive compliments take us away from our original motivation of simply enjoying an activity. We start doing the activity purely for the sake of receiving ego-satisfying praise.

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    However, enough time being stuck in the latter, means we become imprisoned by praise. Without the expectation of praise, our motivation to complete things begins to be lost.

    As an example of this, think back to a time when you were learning a new sport. If your coach only praised you, then you’d have missed out on being shown what things you were doing wrong. And as a consequence, your ability to learn and refine your techniques would have be diminished.

    Criticism encourages growth

      Just to be clear, I’m not talking about trolls or abusive comments, I’m talking about constructive criticism, which I like to think of as ‘healthy criticism’. Feedback that helps to make you stronger.

      If you always think you’re right but don’t get feedback from anyone else, how do you know for sure that what you’re doing is any good? Listening and acting on honest views will tell you precisely what you’re doing well – and what you can do better.

      This type of feedback forces you to evaluate your actions and the way you work. If you use constructive criticism wisely, it can guide you away from bad practices and move you towards good ones.

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      The right kind of criticism is honest feedback that will benefit you.

      Grow strong through the power of criticism

      Now that you’re familiar with the benefits of constructive criticism, let’s delve into several ways that you can use it to boost your productivity and success in life.

      Criticism is generally more actionable than compliments.

      For example, imagine you’re learning to play guitar, and in your first public performance your tutor says: “You did well.” Now, while these might be welcome words to your ears, they’re not as useful in helping you improve as: “Your timing needs some work.” With this piece of advice, you have specific guidance on how to quickly improve your performance skills. (You might need to spend hours playing alongside a metronome.)

      Actively seek criticism by asking for feedback.

      This could be in the form of a question.

      Continuing the guitar playing example, you might ask your tutor (or other people who heard your performance): “What could I have done better?” You could also ask very specific questions. For instance: “Did my playing in the introduction sound in tune?”

      Let’s be honest, most people don’t know how to give feedback – they typically offer vague comments filled with emotions. By asking specific questions, you’ll gain valuable feedback that will help you learn and develop quickly.

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      However, asking questions should also be to gain useful feedback, not to show you have doubts about your abilities and skills.

      Take criticism with patience.

      When you take criticism, I strongly recommend the following:

      • Be quiet and listen. Try to listen to as many perspectives as possible to get a full picture and more points of view.
      • Ask clarifying questions. Aim to understand what the other person means when they criticize you. Don’t make an initial judgement that they’re wrong. Understand first, then start to process their opinions.
      • Ask for suggestions to improve, but always refer back to your goals. After clarifying the problem, seek for suggestions, but don’t just try to satisfy others’ needs. Instead, refer back to your goals to see how improvements can align with your original intentions.
      • Take control of the process. Pick the right person. Typically, this would be someone who is honest, impartial but wants the best for you.

      Rapid feedback is important.

      Speed is also important when it comes to receiving feedback.

      The sooner you get feedback from others, the faster you’ll know what to improve before going ahead with your plans or work. For example, if you’re planning on setting up your own business, ask some interested friends to provide feedback on your ideas. Do this before you launch your business, and you’ll save yourself valuable time learning the long and hard way.

      Seek criticism instead of praise

      The Power of Positive Thinking author Norman Vincent Peale said it well,

      The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.

      How true that is.

      Fortunately, you now have the keys to help you move away from seeking praise – to instead, seeking constructive criticism. And once you start putting these keys to use, you’ll unlock the doors to a whole new way of learning, developing and succeeding.

      Reference

      More by this author

      Brian Lee

      Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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      Last Updated on January 24, 2022

      21 Best Tips On Making A Long Distance Relationship Work

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      21 Best Tips On Making A Long Distance Relationship Work

      Having texting and video conferencing at our fingertips, it appears that maintaining a long-distance relationship is easier than ever. Long-distance calls are no longer a luxury; the days when they needed to be rationed are long gone.

      Long-distance couples do not have to depend on 3 p.m. postal delivery, waiting for news that is at best four days old.

      Now we’re no longer even in the days of waiting for our loved ones to check their e-mail when they get home from work. Instant messaging keeps us hooked to each other even when we are out shopping, working, playing, watching a movie and doing much more.

      Technology, however, cannot compensate for everything in a long-distance relationship, as anyone with a long-distance relationship will tell you.

      Many long-distance relationships still seem emotionally difficult despite the lack of regular physical proximity.

      People often think long-distance relationships will never work. It may be discouraged by your family, and some of your best friends may tell you not to take it too seriously in case you end up heartbroken.

      Many things are not possible due to the extra distance – no one can promise it will be easy. Things could get complicated, and you might feel lonely and sad at times.

      Still, many of us try them.

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      However, the extra distance also makes the simplest things the sweetest. Being able to hold the other person’s hand, eating together at the same table, feeling each other’s touch, taking a walk together, smelling each other’s hair… these small wishes could suddenly mean so much more in a long-distance relationship.

      Long-distance relationships may be tough, but they have their own surprises too.

      Here’re 21 tips on how to make a long distance relationship work:

      1. Avoid excessive communication.

      It is unwise to be overly “sticky” and possessive. You two don’t really have to communicate 12 hours a day to keep the relationship going. Many couples think that they need to compensate for the distance by doing more. This is not true. And it might only make things worse. Soon you would get tired of “loving.”

      Remember: Less is more. It is not about spamming — you are only going to exhaust yourselves. It’s really about teasing at the right moments and tugging at the right spots.

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      2. See it as an opportunity.

      “If you want to live together, you first need to learn how to live apart.” – Anonymous

      View it as a learning journey for both of you. This is an opportunity for you to prove your love for one another. According to a Chinese proverb, “Real gold is not afraid of the test of fire.” Instead of thinking that this long-distance relationship is pulling you two apart, you should believe that through this experience, the both of you will be bound together even stronger.

      As Emma says it to Will in season four of Glee,

      “I would rather be here, far from you, but feeling really close, rather than close to you but feeling really far away.” – Emma, Glee Season 4

      3. Set some ground rules to manage your expectations.

      Both of you need to be clear with what you expect of each other during this long-distance relationship. Set some ground rules so that none of you will do things that will take the other party by surprise.

      For instance, are you two exclusive? Is it all right for the other person to go on dates? What is your commitment level? It’s better to be open with each other about all these things.

      4. Try to communicate regularly, and creatively.

      Greet each other “good morning” and “good night” every day — this is a must. On top of that, try to update your partner on your life and its happenings, however mundane some of the things may seem.

      To up the game, send each other pictures, audio clips, and short videos from time to time. By putting in this kind of effort, you make the other person feel loved and attended to.

      5. Talk dirty with each other.

      Sexual tension is undoubtedly one of the most important things between couples. In a way, sexual desire is like the glue that keeps both parties from drifting apart. Sexual need is not only biological but also emotional.

      Keep the flames burning by sending each other teasing texts filled with sexual innuendos and provocative descriptions. Sexy puns work pretty well too.

      6. Avoid “dangerous” situations.

      If you already know that going to the club or going drinking with your group of friends late at night will displease your partner, then you should either 1. Not do it or 2. Tell your partner beforehand to reassure them.

      You should not let this sort of thing slip by because it will only make your partner extra worried or suspicious – and of course, very upset because they will feel powerless or lack control over the situation.

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      You can fall victim to your traps by going out with eye candy from work after work or dating someone from your past who has been flirting with you without realizing it. Before entering a dangerous situation, you need to recognize the dangers.

      Listen to your heart, but don’t just rely on it. Make sure you also listen to your mind.

      7. Do things together.

      Play a game online together. Watch a documentary at the same time on YouTube or Vimeo. Share a song on Skype while another plays the guitar. Video-call each other and go for a walk together. Together, go online shopping – and buy each other gifts (see #13).

      You really have to be creative and spontaneous about it.

      8. Do similar things.

      Recommend books, TV shows, movies, music, news and etc., to each other. When you read, watch and listen to the same things, you get to have more topics in common to talk about.

      Even if you live apart, it’s nice to have some shared experiences.

      9. Make visits to each other.

      Every long-distance relationship is enriched by visits.

      After all the waiting and yearning and abstinence, you finally get to meet each other to fulfil all the little things like kissing, holding hands, etc. These are typical for couples in long-distance relationships but more special and intimate for long-distance couples.

      The atmosphere will be filled with fireworks, glitter bombs, confetti, rainbows, and butterflies.

      10. Have a goal in mind.

      Are we going to be apart for a long time?” “what about the future?” These are the questions you should ask yourselves.

      In fact, a couple cannot stay in a long-distance relationship forever. Eventually, we all need to settle down.

      So make a plan with each other. Set up a timeline, mark down the estimated times apart and times together, and draw an end goal.

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      It is important that you two are on the same page and have the same goals. So that even if you are not living in the same space and the same timezone, both of you are still motivated to work together in the same direction towards a future that includes one another.

      That’s right, you need some motivation to make a relationship last too. Find out more about what motivates you here.

      11. Enjoy your alone time and your time with your friends and family.

      You are alone, but you are not lonely unless you choose to feel like it. You don’t have to let your world revolve around your partner — you still have you, your friends, and your family. Take this time apart to do more with your friends and family. Go to the gym more often. Get a new hobby. Binge-watch shows. There are plenty of things for you to do that don’t involve your partner.

      12. Stay honest with each other.

      Talk about your feelings of fear, insecurity, jealousy, apathy, whatsoever. If you try to hide anything from your partner, that secret will sooner or later swallow you up from the inside out. Don’t try to deal with things all by yourself. Be open and honest with each other. Let your partner help you and give you the support you need. It’s better to look at the problem during its initial stage than to only disclose it when it’s all too late.

      13. Know each other’s schedules.

      It’s helpful to know when the other person is busy and free. So that you can drop a text or make a call at the right time. You wouldn’t want to disturb your partner when they are in the middle of class or halfway through a business meeting. Make sure you are aware of everyone’s small and big events in their lives, i.e., college midterms and exams, important business trips and meetings, job interviews, etc. Particularly if you live in different time zones, this becomes more important.

      14. Keep track of each other’s social media activities.

      Facebook and Instagram photos of each other. Send each other tweets. Tag each other on Facebook. Post stuff on each other’s wall. Let them know you care. Be cool with stalking each other.

      15. Gift a personal object for the other person to hold on to.

      Memories have power. No matter what it is–a pendant, a ring, a keychain, a collection of songs and videos, or a perfume bottle. Everyday items and things have meanings to us, whether we realize it or not. We all try to store memories in material things so that when our minds fail, we will still be able to look at or hold onto something that will help us recall our memories. This is why something so simple can mean so much to a person when others may see little or no value in it.

      16. Get a good messaging app.

      This is extremely important because texting is the most frequent and common way of communication the two of you have. You need a good messaging app on your phones that allows interactions beyond words and emoticons.

      Personally, I use this messaging app called LINE. I find it highly effective because it has a huge reserve of playful and very funny “stickers” that are free for its users to use. You can also go to the app’s “Sticker Shop” to download (or gift!) extra stickers of different themes (e.g., Hello Kitty, Pokemon, Snoopy, MARVEL, etc.) at a low price. Occasionally, the app will give out free sticker sets for promotions. This messaging app is cute and easy to learn to use.

      17. Snail-mail your gift.

      Mail each other postcards and hand-written love letters. Send each other gifts across the globe from time to time. Flower deliveries on birthdays, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day. Shop online and surprise each other with cool T-shirts, sexy underwear, and such.

      18. Stay positive.

      You need to constantly inject positive energy into the long-distance relationship to keep it alive. Yes, the waiting can be painful, and you can sometimes feel lonely, but you need to remind yourself that the fruits at the end will be sweet as heaven.

      One good trick to staying positive is to be grateful all the time. Be thankful that you have someone to love — someone who also loves you back. Be thankful for the little things, like the hand-made letter that arrived safely in your mailbox the other day. Be thankful for each other’s health and safety.

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      19. Keep each other updated on each other’s friends and family.

      This will help you two to know each other’s culture and values. Knowing small habits of each other helps in developing an understanding and building mutual trust.

      Talking about family and friends gives you more matters to talk about. The best thing to talk about is gossip and scandals.

      20. Video-call whenever possible.

      Because sometimes looking into each other’s eyes and hearing each other’s voices can make everything feel alright again.

      A video call is though nothing like being together, but it’s the best thing and the most to do for coziness in a long-distance relationship.

      21. Give each other pet names.

      Because it’s cute. It keeps the lovey-dovey going. Having special names for each other reserved only for one another are heart-warming. Hearing that one word with love lifts our spirits up, and we feel assured all over again.

      Chaos seems to fade away just by hearing that special word from someone special.

      With the best wishes…

      Love (or like) is a force that is beyond your control. Love just happens. The same goes for turning off those feelings, even when you get the perfect job halfway across the country.

      Neither one of us expects to be long-distance in a relationship. But if you’re in a relationship like this, you’ll just have to make the most out of a difficult situation. These advice for long distance relationships will hopefully help you stay strong and cheerful when living apart from one another.

      More Recommended Relationships Experts on Lifehack
      • Carol Morgan —  A communication professor, dating/relationship and success coach
      • Dr. Magdalena Battles — A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault
      • Randy Skilton —  An educator in the areas of relationships and self-help

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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