I have really been on a criticism kick lately. Not giving it out like candy on halloween…but considering the idea of criticism. I feel like I’ve noticed that we have grown more critical over the last several years. And we chalk it up to “being helpful” or simply “expecting higher standards.”
But the reality that I’ve noticed is that much of the criticism I see and hear comes from a place of selfishness and personal preferences rather than a place of general good and helping someone or something move to a place of greater effectiveness or impact.
And I’m as guilty as anyone. I’ve completely bought in. I am all-in on giving out criticism. And no one or nothing is off limits. I’m not proud of it…but it’s true. I’m working on it…
For example, my kids’ school just hired a new principal. The search has been going on for a few months and they’ve done a good job of keeping us in the loop on what’s going on. But, they just made the announcement of the new principal.
My first reaction – to criticize their choice. I found that I wanted to immediately point out everything that was wrong and all of the ways that they could have done it better. If I’m being honest, though…those thoughts and feelings were coming from a place of pride. Instead I had to resist that and trust that their process and decision was not only one that was well thought out, but also one that was guided by God.
So, I’ve been thinking lately about myself and others who are critical and how I can help us all evaluate and know if we’re the ones who are critical or not. And here’s what I came up with – 4 ways to know if you’re a critical person:
- What’s the goal of the criticism? I’ve found that the motivation for the criticism tells me a lot about whether or not it should be shared. Is the goal rooted in my own preferences or opinions or is it based on something that is truly for the greater good? Do I just want to show how much I know? Do I just want to be right? Or, is my goal to contribute towards a goal that is noble and God-honoring?
- What’s the ratio of criticism to compliments? This question is an interesting one – but I think there is inherent value in it. I truly believe that we should all try our hardest to be encouragers. And criticism can often be discouraging. But, when there is a higher ratio (or at least a 1:1 ratio) of compliments to criticisms, it can be a little easier for people to swallow. If you find that you criticize someone or something WAY more than you compliment them, you’re probably doing something wrong.
- How much consideration have you given to the criticism? I have certainly discovered time and time again that my first reaction to something is usually not as sharp as I imagine it is. But once I take time to think about the criticism (i.e. answering these questions first), I find that I either don’t give criticism at all or I at least fine tune my criticism to be more helpful. If you feel compelled to give criticism, I want to encourage you to take some time to consider it before you speak it.
- How close are you to the situation? I can imagine that I am much closer to a situation just because I am a stakeholder in it. Let me say that again in a different way, I find that just because I am connected or impacted by a decision or action, that I feel like I am close enough to it to criticize it. The example for me is the one of my kids’ school and the hiring of the principal. I am impacted by it, but I have absolutely NO idea how the decision was reached, the competency of the other candidates, or even the talents, skills, and gifts of the guy they picked. So, just because you shop at Wal-Mart, that doesn’t mean that you are close enough to the situation to criticize their decision to move your favorite product from aisle 10 to aisle 22.
How do you rank yourself on giving criticism and generally being a critical person? Do you have work to do? We all do… These four questions will help you evaluate yourself and move closer to being a person that people actually seek out for criticism rather than being the one they run from because all you do is criticize them.