The Double-Edge Sword of Criticism by Robert Stevenson

Mary Kay Ash, the founder of the $3 billion company bearing her name once said, “You should sandwich every bit of criticism between two layers of praise.” The problem is, most managers, leaders, bosses and coaches don’t do that. Criticism is a double-edged sword that can help or hurt, improve or destroy, correct or injure … so it must be administered with the utmost care; in most cases, it is not. Webster’s Dictionary defines criticism as: the act of making judgements … finding fault, or disapproval. These are some pretty harsh words when they are meant for you. By making it a verb, criticize, it gets even worse: to judge disapprovingly, reprehend, blame, censure, condemn, denounce. No wonder we hate criticism. In most cases, it is taken poorly as well as defensively, and it definitely doesn’t make us feel good.

We also tend to question the agenda of the person giving it; is it their intention to help us or make themselves look better at our expense. Pure and simple, to the vast majority of us, criticism is a painful experience. Norman Vincent Peale once said: “The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined with praise than saved with criticism.”

If we intend to get better at what we do, criticism is necessary. What a dilemma, we hate it, but we need it … what to do? You may want to take a look at what you have learned from your own body. If you take up running to get in better physical condition, you will get sore (pain) when you first start. The same is true for golf, tennis, bowling, aerobics, swimming, biking … just about all sports I can think of. In exercise, we all will encounter soreness before we ever start enjoying the benefits of exercising. Guitar players have to develop calluses on their fingers before the pain will go away when they play. The toughing of our skin and the conditioning of our body are great examples of the discomfort we have to encounter to get better at something.

The same is true in learning … except the pain will come in the form of criticism. The toughest subject to study is yourself. How do you know you are doing it wrong, if no one tells you? When you are criticized, you now have the opportunity to get better; to me, that is a blessing. The problem with this blessing is … it usually causes us pain, anxiety, frustration, and sometimes even an occasional denial. So, filter out the pain and only allow the knowledge you have gained from the criticism to enter your mind. People who accept criticism are the ones truly interested in improving. Aristotle stated: “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” Accepting and using criticism to your benefit is the key to your success.

Don’t question the agenda of the critic,
just learn from it,
because the end result is a better you,
not a better them.

For more information on Robert Stevenson, click here.

Leave a Reply


social media linkssocial media linkssocial media links social media links