The Truth about Criticism

By Duane Krip

Criticism in all its forms is like acid, raining down from the sky, burning through our outer skin burrowing and corroding its way to the very core of our being…it weakens our foundation, leaving us susceptible to complete collapse…

…but it doesn’t have to!

You can look at criticism as either flowing toward you or from you.

It is the basis of office politics where the maneuvering and jockeying resemble an episode of Survivor. Whether criticism is overly direct, subtle “ha-ha” comments…or in the form of office gossip, it is disruptive in so many ways in all organizations.

I recall one instance when a staff member went on a 15 minute rant around the office about my leather watch strap…vociferously proclaiming how “out of style” leather watch straps are.

Here’s the paradoxical truth about criticism.

When criticism flows toward you it’s not about you! It is a mirrored reflection of the internal turmoil of the criticizer. And when criticism rolls off your tongue directed at someone else, it’s a mirrored reflection of you…and your internal turmoil NOT the person you are criticizing!

When you look at the criticism of my leather watch strap from this perspective you can easily see that the critique was a commentary of that persons own insecurities. You can’t help but have empathy for them.

In The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz he states it beautifully when he says:

“Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.

Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds. Their point of view comes from all the programming they received during domestication.

If someone gives you an opinion and says, “Hey, you look so fat,” don’t take it personally, because the truth is that this person is dealing with his or her own feelings, beliefs, and opinions. That person tried to send poison to you and if you take it personally, then you take that poison and it becomes yours.

I hope a light bulb of truth within you just flicked on because the implications of this on both your career and personal life are enormous! Consider the drain on your energy…the lost productivity…the derailment of focus when you allow someone else’s opinions or actions to tear at your foundation…or conversely, when you yourself engage in outward directed criticism of others.

Today, as you encounter criticism, whatever form that may be, try making a clear distinction between what people say and the meaning you give it. Flip it around so you see their words or actions as a reflection of their own internal strife.

When you do this, how does this new perspective change how you feel? Let me know. Leave a comment below.

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2 Responses to The Truth about Criticism

  • Daniel Zrymiak says:

    Hi Duane,

    I found this article to be very profound and I feel compelled to comment. First, with respect to leather watch straps, the leather is an organic garment which is less sensitive on skin than plastic or metallic alternatives. Due to my excema which can lead to irritation, dryness, and open skin cracks causing bleeding, I stopped wearing watches altogether and limit my hand accessories to my wedding ring. When I did wear watches, I found leather preferable and more tolerable to my sensitive skin condition. In this case, style and aesthetics take a lower priority to personal comfort. The lesson is that before mocking someone’s attire, take a moment to consider whether there is a medical purpose behind those thick eyeglasses, those clunky shoes, the unusual headwear, or something that may diverge from GQ or Esquire.

    With respect to criticism, there are many levels and grades. It stems from the motive of the person providing the criticism. If it is from a place of love or mentorship, it is sometimes helpful to get respectful and honest feedback, even when the news is not delightful. If however the criticism is malicious and vindictive in nature, that is when I find it to create the most significant long-term damage. That aligns with the poison which you have described.

    When criticism comes in the form of public personal attacks, it is an assault. There is no balance that can be restored, and your recommendation to flip the criticism around is valid and applicable. People project their own fears and insecurities with their comments, and quite often the most damaging critiques they communicate are intended to deflect from their own shortcomings.

    It is difficult to deal with the poisonous, acidic critiques communicated destructively, especially when they come from those in your life whom you had believed to be trustworthy supporters. Your article is helpful in this regard. I have also taken solace in the scripture Paul Romans 12, which takes the burden of correcting the situation from me.

    Thank you Duane for publishing and forwarding your article.

    • duanekrip says:

      Thank-you Dan! As I wrote this piece I contemplated if I should address Constructive Criticism. In the interest of brevity I chose not to. You are right; there are times when criticism comes from that of a constructive or loving place. It is positive and should be seen as that. We see this in work the workplace where a Superior is coaching/ mentoring a Subordinate…or in a parent/ child relationship.
      With that said, there is a fine line where the “constructiveness” becomes tainted with the critics own pain. As an example, if the Superior laces their tone of voice or choice of words toward the Subordinate with spite or arrogance the line is crossed. Another example from a client I worked with was the critical nature of their parents toward their chosen career path. Although the parent’s motive was out of a place of love and caring for their child, their point of view was tainted with their own conditionings and pain.
      For sure there are different ways to view criticism…it’s crucial not to take it personally whether constructive or not.

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