“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” – David Brinkley
A good friend of mine who has been incredibly successful in business and in life, but who had a rough start in life, shared that quote with me.
What I admire about my friend is that’s exactly what he did with the bad stuff thrown at him. His childhood story could break your heart, and yet he’s an incredibly successful business person, husband, father and volunteer, not to mention that he’s a great friend.
As much as you and I would like to believe otherwise, criticism is unavoidable and inevitable if you are going to even attempt to do anything significant in your life.
As I talked about in my last post, the only surefire way to avoid criticism is to do nothing significant.
So when it comes your way, what do you do?
One of the worst things you can do is to focus on your emotions. If you’re like me, your emotions can derail you. Seriously, you can lose an hour – even a day – of productivity because someone’s comments stung you.
If you start with your emotions, you’ll get stuck in them. So after the initial deflation, jump as quickly as you can into a more constructive pattern.
Here’s the one I try to follow.
1. Consider the source. Criticism from a wise, respected person is valuable and should be considered. In fact, you should rejoice when you receive it. It will make you wiser and open you to blind spots you otherwise would have missed. Criticism from a perpetual negative critic is usually less valuable (read this post for 7 signs you’re dealing with a negative person). Just remember this, not all criticism is created equal. You need to consider the source. I blogged more about how to filter criticism here.
2. Look for truth. Regardless of the source, there is almost always some truth in what has been said (the exception tends to be from incredibly negative people – who sometimes honestly do have nothing redeeming to say). Usually, I can isolate a few things even in a tirade that are probably true. I can learn and grow from them.
3. Get a friend’s opinion. When you’ve isolated a few things you think might be true, why not ask a colleague, your boss, your spouse or a good friend if they think you could grow in that area? Sometimes they’ll tell you the criticism is unwarranted, but if you give them permission, they can often affirm a negative behaviour you have which you might have missed. Then you have the opportunity to correct. Either way, you’ll grow in self-awareness, which is always a good thing.
4. Pray about it. I don’t know whether you consider yourself a Christian or even a spiritual person, but here’s what I’ve personally discovered to be true. I find when the criticism I receive becomes a matter of confession and repentance it becomes redemptive. You can always get better. You can. When you surrender your weaknesses to God, he has a way of making you into a different person, which makes you a better spouse, parent, employee, boss or leader. And by the way, confession keeps you humble. Humility is one of the defining characteristics of the very top leaders.
5. Focus on Growth and Strengths. Criticism can make me think I’m not good at anything. That’s why it’s important to avoid the emotional ditch that criticism brings. But using the first four steps has probably led you to the place where you can begin to focus on how the critique can help you. Now take those learnings and align them with your known strengths. Refocus on what you are already good at, and ask yourself (sincerely) how what you just learned can help you get even better.
How do you handle criticism? What helps you process it so it’s constructive, rather than merely destructive?