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9 Reasons Why Criticism Rocks (and Some of the Worst Comments I’ve Ever Received)

9 Reasons Why Criticism Rocks (and Some of the Worst Comments I’ve Ever Received)

For the original unedited article, visit Celestine’s blog, Personal Excellence.

A while back, I was out having lunch with a friend, P. In amidst our lunch, blogging came up as a chat topic.

P told me that she had been thinking of starting a blog. However, she had been hesitating against it as she was fearful of criticism. Starting a blog would require her to share pretty personal things, and she wasn’t not sure how to handle criticism if someone was to dish it out on her.

Being someone with great experience in dealing with criticism, I immediately told her that her sentiments about criticism were unwarranted because criticism is a good thing, and proceeded to explain why.

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Upon hearing my explanation, she immediately grinned, nodded, and said that she would start adopting that view from now on.

Embracing Criticism (+ Some of the Worst Comments I’ve Ever Received)

What I shared with her are important lessons which I have learned about criticism from running my personal development blog Personal Excellence.

In the past few years as I managed my blog, I have received criticisms on anything and everything. While the best criticism should be constructive and objective (read: How To Give Constructive Criticism in 6 Steps), the criticisms I get on my blog can be very personal and uncivil sometimes, ranging from my looks to my personal life to my family.

There was once I wrote about being sponsored by a local dating agency to write reviews of their service, given that I was single. Since many of my readers are single as well, I thought they would be interested to learn about the experience of using such a service, and hence took up the sponsorship. Not long after, someone posted comments insulting me, saying that my taking up of the sponsored service made her “sick to her stomach”, that I had “no integrity”, that I had “prostituted” myself, that I should send my article to “pornhub”, and “it was no wonder you are still single” (among some other colorful words). The violent reaction was appalling, to say the least.

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A while back, I had a photo shoot feature with a local magazine. A guy, a self-help blogger no less, wrote a somewhat sexist e-mail after seeing my photos, asking me to “please lose some weight”, because people look up to me for inspiration and I was apparently not an inspirational enough figure (no pun intended) because I had looked (and I quote) “too prosperous” in the shoot. It was a highly disparaging remark IMO.

Then another time, someone spammed my articles with various pointless comments, flaming me and my ethnicity. She was supposedly in hate with me, saying I was a joke and I was nothing but a “stupid Azian [sic] girl trying to take over the world”.

The list goes on and on. I even have a special folder in my e-mail client for messages like this, so you can imagine how many of such bizarre comments I get on an ongoing basis.

…Yet, I think criticisms are good, really good. And I’ll explain to you why.

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9 Reasons Why Criticism Is Good

  1. For someone to criticize you, it means that he/she cared (enough to write or share that criticism, anyway). The person could have used that time to do something else, but no, he/she actually bothered to send you that message, showing that he/she cared. That has got to count for something.
  2. You are reaching new people. Every time I receive a criticism, I celebrate because that means that I have just reached a new audience member—someone who doesn’t necessarily agree with what I say/do. I think what’s most worrying is IF I don’t get any criticism at all. That would mean that I’m inside my comfort zone and just connecting with the same people every day.You want to spread your life’s message to as many people as you can. Receiving criticism means that you are now reaching people whom you’ve never reached before. That means you are touching more lives than you’ve ever touched before. That’s a really great thing.
  3. People wouldn’t criticize you if they didn’t think you were worth criticizing to begin with. To be honest, there are tons of critique-worthy stuff out there. But not everyone takes time to criticize the things he/she don’t agree with. Why? That’s because they don’t feel that those things are worth their critiques at all.If someone is criticizing you, that probably means that there’s something about you that is worth him/her taking time to criticize. If you look at the most prominent figures in this world, from Lady Gaga, to Oprah Winfrey, to Steve Jobs, all of them have large groups of detractors. Why? It’s because each of them stands for a great message—a message that shakes others and stirs up their souls. As Winston Churchill puts it, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
  4. Criticism lets you see things in a different light. Criticism arises as a result of a conflict in thoughts. You did/said something, someone else has a different opinion, and hence the criticism. Hence, whenever you receive a criticism, you are hearing from a different viewpoint—one which you might never have considered before. The criticism helps you to see things from a different perspective, hence raising your awareness.
  5. Criticism is a form of honesty. (It lets you know what others truly think.) I actually prefer to be with someone who openly shares what he/she thinks than someone who thinks the same thoughts BUT keeps it to him/herself. With the first person, at least what I see/hear is what I get. With the latter person, the relationship quickly descends into a guessing game.What I do after hearing the person’s opinion is a different thing altogether (I can choose to heed it or discard it), but at least I’m now aware of what the person thinks and where he/she stands.
  6. Criticism helps you to improve. Criticism lets you know about your blind spots so that you can work on them. The more blind spots you uncover about yourself, the faster you will grow. Over the years, I have learned many things from others’ criticisms of me and my work. Some of them have helped me to learn things I have never known before about myself, which has been instrumental for my growth.
  7. Criticism lets you learn about your defense mechanisms. In Day 18: Reflect on a Criticism of Be a Better Me in 30 Days Program (which is my 30-day character transformation program), I mentioned that there are two things we can always learn from criticism: the thing that is critiqued (see Points #4 and #6), and our reaction to the criticism. Even when I get criticisms which have no validity, I still learn a ton about myself based on the emotions that surface when receiving the criticism, my first gut instinct reaction, and how I handle the situation.I’ve learned that my reactions are usually a reflection of unprocessed inner issues. Working through these reactions has helped me to become a calmer and more conscious person.
  8. Criticism helps you to learn more about others. Every criticism tells you something about yourself and the other person. By breaking down the comment, you can understand the critic’s perspective, his/her beliefs, and his/her values. This can be helpful in furthering the relationship with the person.For example, if your mom criticizes you for being rude to her, maybe it tells you that she is hurt by your actions. She is looking for love and affirmation in the relationship but your words and actions (whether they are really rude or not) are denying her that. Hence, it indicates that you should show love to your mom in a language that she understands, rather than relying on implicit mannerisms.
  9. Criticism sometimes jolts you into action. Ever had a situation where a criticism kicked you into action? Yeah, I had that before too. Sometimes, criticism provides that wake-up call that you have been missing. Perhaps there is something that you have been doing wrong but the people around you are just too nice to let you know or they themselves are oblivious to it, like you. A well-timed criticism, delivered in an appropriate manner, can sometimes provide a much-needed insight which then ignites you into action.

When Criticism Isn’t Good

There are cases when criticism can be detrimental.

#1: When criticism is the only thing you get every day

First example would be when you get constantly get criticism without any breather. Besides the fact that this can be a serious energy suck, constant criticism can divert you from the things that really matter, because rather than work on your goals, you’re too busy reacting to others or resolving conflict between you and other people.

Examples of such situations would be when parents criticize their kids 24/7, a student who is constantly picked on by school bullies, and someone whose work involves dealing with a public audience (such as teachers, writers, bloggers, public figures, and so on).

If you’re getting so much criticism to the point that it’s hindering rather than enabling you, some suggestions I have for you are:

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  1. Learn not to let criticism faze you. Read: 8 Helpful Ways To Deal With Critical People
  2. Don’t spend your time on the criticism. Use it for something else. Read: 13 Strategies to Jumpstart Your Productivity
  3. If the criticism is mainly coming from one person, assert yourself to him/her. Tell him/her you get his/her point, but this just isn’t what you want to be dealing with at the moment. Read: 7 Simple Ways To Say No
  4. Create boundaries on how criticism can reach you. For example, I set specific channels where readers can openly share feedback (such as the comment sections of new articles and my social media channels). I do not allow e-mail to be used for feedback purposes—it’s reserved strictly for work engagements. This helps me to be dramatically productive.

#2: When the criticism isn’t constructive and/or gets personal

The second case is when the criticism isn’t constructive and/or becomes personal, offensive, and disparaging. The three examples I’ve shared earlier in the article are examples of that.

When that happens, it’s a violation of your rights. Put these people in their place by asserting your rights. Be ready to cut away chronic critics if you have to.

Start Embracing Criticism

I hope you have found this article useful. What are your views on criticism? How do you deal with criticism yourself? Feel free to share in the comments section.

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Celestine Chua

Life Coach, Blogger

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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