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Why a Criticism Is Better Than a Compliment

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

      100 Incredible Life Hacks That Make Life So Much Easier 10 Best New Products That People Don’t Know About Book Summary: The Power of Habit in 2 Minutes 1 Minute Book Summary: How To Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less 2 Minutes Book Summary: Thinking Fast and Slow

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      Last Updated on July 18, 2019

      What Makes People Happy? 20 Secrets of “Always Happy” People

      What Makes People Happy? 20 Secrets of “Always Happy” People

      Some people just seem to float through life with a relentless sense of happiness – through the toughest of times, they’re unfazed and aloof, stopping to smell the roses and drinking out of a glass half full.

      They may not have much to be happy about, but the simplicity behind that fact itself may make them happy.

      It’s all a matter of perspective, conscious effort and self-awareness. Listed below are a number of reasons why some people are always happy.

      1. They Manage Their Expectations

      They’re not crushed when they don’t get what they want – or misled into expecting to get the most out of every situation. They approach every situation pragmatically, hoping for the best but being prepared for the worst.

      2. They Don’t Set Unrealistic Standards

      Similar to the last point, they don’t live their lives in a constant pursuit towards impossible visions of perfection, only to always find themselves falling short of what they want.

      3. They Don’t Take Anything for Granted

      Happiness rests with feeling fulfilled – those who fail to stop and appreciate what they have every now and again will never experience true fulfillment.

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      4. They’re Not Materialistic

      There are arguing viewpoints on whether or not money can really buy happiness; if it can, then we know from experience that we can never be satisfied because there will always be something newer or better that we want. Who has ever had enough money?

      5. They Don’t Dwell

      They don’t sweat the small things or waste time worrying about things that don’t really matter at the end of the day. They don’t let negative thoughts latch onto them and drain them or distract them. Life’s too short to worry.

      6. They Care About Themselves First

      They’re independent, care for themselves and understand that they must put their needs first in order to accommodate the needs of others.

      They indulge, aim to get what they want, make time for themselves and are extremely self-reliant.

      7. They Enjoy the Little Things

      They stop to smell the roses. They’re accustomed to find serenity when it’s available, to welcome entertainment or a stimulating discussion with a stranger when it crosses their path. They don’t overlook the small things in life that can be just as important.

      8. They Can Adapt

      They’re not afraid of change and they work to make the most out of new circumstances, good or bad. They thrive under pressure, are not overwhelmed easily and always embrace a change of pace.

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      9. They Experiment

      They try new things, experience new flavors and never shy away from something they have yet to experience. They never order twice from the same menu.

      10. They Take Their Time

      They don’t unnecessarily rush through life. They work on their own schedule to the extent that they can and maneuver through life at their own relaxing pace.

      11. They Employ Different Perspectives

      They’re not stuck in one perspective; a loss can result in a new opportunity, hitting rock bottom can mean that there’s no where to go but up.

      12. They Seek to Learn

      Their constant pursuit of knowledge keeps them inspired and interested in life. They cherish information and are on a life-long quest to learn as much as they can.

      13. They Always Have a Plan

      They don’t find themselves drifting without purpose. When something doesn’t go as planned, they have a plan for every letter in the alphabet to fall back on.

      14. They Give Respect to Get It

      They are respectful and, in turn, are seen as respectable; the respect they exude earns them the respect they deserve.

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      15. They Consider Every Opportunity

      They always have their eyes open for a new road, a new avenue worth exploring. They know how to recognize opportune moments and pounce on them to make the most of every situation. Success is inevitable for them.

      16. They Always Seek to Improve

      Perpetual self-improvement is the key towards their ongoing thirst for success. Whatever it is they do, they take pride in getting better and better, from social interactions to mundane tasks. Their pursuit at being the best eventually materializes.

      17. They Don’t Take Life Too Seriously

      They’re not ones to get offended easily over-analyze or complicate matters. They laugh at their own faults and misfortunes.

      18. They Live in the Moment

      They don’t live for tomorrow or dwell on what may have happened yesterday. Every day is a new opportunity, a new chapter. They live in the now, and in doing so, get the most out of every moment.

      You can learn how to do so too: How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Past or Future

      19. They Say Yes

      Much more often than they say no. They don’t have to be badgered to go out, don’t shy away from new opportunities or anything that may seem inconvenient.

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      20. They’re Self-Aware

      Most important, they’re wholly aware of themselves. They self-reflect and are conscious of their states of mind. If somethings bothering them, they fix it.

      We’re all susceptible to feeling down every now and again, but we are all equipped with the necessary solutions that just have to be discovered.

      Lack of confidence, inability to feel fulfilled, and susceptibility to stress are all matters that can be controlled through the way we handle our lives and perceive our circumstances.

      Learn about How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life.

      Final Thoughts

      The main philosophy employed by the happiest includes the idea that life’s simply too short: life’s too short to let things get you down, to take things for granted, to pursue absolute and unrealistic perfection.

      For some, employing these characteristics is a second nature – they do it without knowing. For others, a conscious effort must be put forth every now and again. Self-Awareness is key.

      More About Happiness

      Featured photo credit: Charles Postiaux via unsplash.com

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