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How to Take Criticism Constructively

How to Take Criticism Constructively

In my writing journey, I’ve had the pleasure of both working with critics and writing quite a few criticisms myself. Every lifehack I write is especially critiqued, and I can thank the entire editing staff here for making my writing sparkle (even on the days when I want to slack soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo bad). No matter what you do in life, you’ll be criticized for it, and the louder you do it, the more criticism you’ll get. Change your perspective on haters by learning how to take criticism constructively…

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    1. Truth Hurts.

    You’re not perfect at everything, and you don’t need a trophy for going to the bathroom without missing. This doesn’t mean you don’t put in your best effort, and when people offer you better methods, accept that your way isn’t always the best. Sometimes things have to be said, and if this is the first time you’ve heard it, it’s probably because this is the first time someone cared enough to tell you. Feel the love…

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    2. Crittin’ Ain’t Easy.

    Gamers know there are tradeoffs between crits and attack/movement speed. The idea is everyone wants to hit as hard and fast as possible, but you have to balance the two to your style in order to truly win the war. Taking criticism hits hard, and you want to produce work as fast as possible to achieve your goals, but accepting that criticism, working through it with the critic, and resolving your issues quickly will raise the amount of hits you produce and your lifetime overall DPS.

    3. All I’m Asking for Is Understanding.

    Understand where people are coming from when both taking and giving criticism. Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, a little compassion for the other side will ensure they know you’re on the same side and agreement is much easier than fighting. It also helps to research what the other person is saying (and perhaps gather stats to show their side instead of yours) in order to understand where they’re coming from. The quicker you start working with critics, the easier your life will be.

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    4. Figuratively Give It a Shot.

    Don’t shoot the messenger; instead give their message a shot. Maybe they’re right, and maybe they’re wrong, but the only way you’ll ever know is by trying it out. If the criticism is truly constructive, the critic will be willing to show you the correct way by giving more than just examples of other people’s work. A real critic rolls up their sleeves and produces what they’re trying to get you to produce. If you like how it changes your work, incorporate their suggestions moving forward.

    5. Don’t Be Afraid to Push Back.

    Just because someone is an expert doesn’t always mean they’re right; this is especially true in creative pursuits. A video editor, for example, will tell you how important it is to have multiple camera angles, but Kevin Smith made Clerks without them. Rules are meant to be broken, but keep in mind, sometimes you really are just bad at something. Just because you said something doesn’t mean it’s entitled to be heard. You need to get on your grind, son.

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    6. Bluntness Is Best.

    Everybody hates those who sugar coat things. I love hearing blunt and direct problems people have with me. It helps me understand how to better communicate with those I love (or play up the things that annoy the hell out of those I don’t). People would much rather hear you say, “I don’t like the way you click your nails when you talk,” than, “You should watch how you present yourself.”

    7. The Facts of Life.

    If someone really doesn’t like what you have to offer (or you, yourself), then there’s nothing you can do to change their mind – focus on the people who do like it instead. Don’t get too caught up in everyone liking you, because it’ll affect your self-worth in unexpected ways. Remember that real constructive criticism is based on a process you’re following. It’s not you or them that’s the problem; it’s the process.

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    Last Updated on October 14, 2020

    The Art of Humble Confidence

    The Art of Humble Confidence

    To be confident or not to be confident, that is the question. I’m not sure about you, but I’ve been a bit confused about all this discussion about the subject of confidence. Do you really need to be more confident or should you try to be more humble? I think the answer is both – you just have to know where to use it.

    East VS West – Confidence, It’s a Cultural Thing

    In typical Western countries, the answer to the confidence debate is obvious – more is better. Our heros are rebellious, independent and shoot first, ask questions later. I think this snippet of dialog from The Matrix sums it up best:

    Agent Smith – “We’re willing to wipe the slate clean, give you a fresh start. All that we’re asking in return is your cooperation in bringing a known terrorist to justice.”
    Neo – “Yeah. Well, that sounds like a pretty good deal. But I think I may have a better one. How about, I give you the finger”
    [He does]
    Neo -“ …and you give me my phone call.”

    In Eastern countries, the tone is often considerably different. Elders are supposed to be revered not dismissed. The words ‘guru,’ meaning a teacher, and the philosophy of dharma, loosely translated to mean ‘duty,’ come from here. In Eastern cultures humility and respect are more important than confidence.

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    These perspectives are generalizations, but it shows how the confidence debate goes back deep into our culture. I think that both extremes of pure confidence or pure humility are misguided. Instead of rectifying this situation by simply blending the two: becoming somewhat humble, somewhat confident all the time, I believe the answer is to know when to be confident and when to be humble.

    Humble Confidence – Know When to Use It

    I’m going to make another broad generalization. I believe that virtually every relationship you are going to have is going to fit into one of two major archetypes, either master or student. In peer relationships this master/student role may switch frequently, but it is extremely rare that the relationship never leans to one side.

    In the master role, you are displaying confidence to get what you want. This is public speaker, leader or seducer. Being the master has advantages. You have more control and ability to influence from this role.

    The student role is the opposite. You are intentionally displaying humility. This is the student, disciple or follower. Being the student has advantages too. You can learn a lot more in this role and are more likely to win the trust of the other person.

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    Know When to Shut Up and Learn

    If you are a typical Westerner, you are probably already thinking about which role you prefer. Being the leader is great. You get respect and a higher status. Most of all you get a greater degree of control.

    But the problem is that you can’t and shouldn’t always try to be the leader. Trying to assume that role without the skills, resources or status to back it up will lead to conflict. More importantly, there are many times when you purposely want to display humility. Some of the benefits to the student role include:

    • You learn more.
    • Smooths relationships.
    • Makes others more willing to lend a helping hand.

    Knowing when taking the humble route is to your advantage. It is far easier to get mentors and advisors if you use humility rather than arrogance. A small sacrifice to your ego can open up the potential to learn a lot.

    Confidence to Persuade, Humility to Learn

    In reality almost no relationship is as clearly defined as master/student. Within our connections, people have overlapping areas of expertise. I might be an expert in blogging to a non-blogger, but they might be an expert in finance. In each area there are different roles to take.

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    Before any interaction ask yourself what the purpose is. Are you trying to learn or persuade?

    Persuasion requires confidence. If you are trying to sell, instruct or lead you need to display the confidence to match your message. But learning requires humility. You won’t learn anything if you are constantly arguing with your professors, mentors or employers. Taking a dose of humility and temporarily making yourself a student gives you the opportunity to absorb.

    Persuade Less, Learn More

    Persuasion is great for immediate effect, but learning matters over the long-haul. Instead of washing over all your communication with pure confidence, look for opportunities to learn. Persuading someone to follow you may give you an immediate boost of satisfaction, but it doesn’t last. Learning, however, is an investment for the future.

    Whenever I make a connection with someone and realize they have a skill or understanding I want, I am careful to express humility in that area. That means listening with what they say even if I don’t immediately agree and being patient with their response. This method often drastically cuts down the time I need to spend on trial and error to learn by myself.

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    Confidence/Humility Doesn’t Replace Communication Skills

    This approach of selectively using confidence and humility for different purposes doesn’t replace communication skills. Humility isn’t going to work if the other person thinks you’re an irritating whiner. Confidence won’t work if the entire room thinks you are an arrogant jerk. Knowing how to display these two qualities takes practice.

    The next time you are about to enter into an interaction ask yourself why you are doing it. Are you trying to persuade or learn? Depending on which you can take a completely different tact for far better results.

    Featured photo credit: BBH Singapore via unsplash.com

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