The Critic’s Choice

To give a person an opinion one must first judge well whether that person is of the disposition to receive it or not. One must become close with him and make sure that he continually trusts one’s word.

Approaching subjects that are dear to him, seek the best way to speak and to be well understood. Judge the occasion, and determine whether it is better by letter or at the time of leave-taking. Praise his good points and use every device to encourage him, perhaps by talking about one’s own faults without touching on his, but so that they will occur to him. Have him receive this in the way that a man would drink water when his throat is dry, and it will be an opinion that will correct faults.

This is extremely difficult. If a person s fault is a habit of some years prior, by and large it won’t be remedied. I have had this experience myself. To be intimate with all one’s comrades, correcting each others faults, and being of one mind to be of use to the master is the great compassion of a retainer.

By bringing shame to a person, how could one expect to make him a better man?”


I welcome criticism to anything I do. I welcome it to me personally. I welcome it in my job. I welcome it to the site.

I’m in a job where you are oftentimes told that you are not good enough, either subtly or directly. That my output, while good, isn’t quite good enough. Criticism is something I have had to learn to live with. Learn to benefit from.

Look, I never like it. In truth, no one does. It’s not like I want to be lied to…to have someone telling me that what I’m doing is great when it’s not. I just want to be doing something great.  

So why do I welcome it? Why should you? If you want to be great, constructive criticism, in its real and true form, helps you get there. It gets you to think about your process. It helps you improve.

But the process or giving and receiving criticism is tricky. It leaves people hurt, offended, defensive, angry…and is oftentimes unproductive in the end.

There are two people involved in criticism…the critic and the criticized. Both roles are equally difficult.

The ‘criticized’ role is very easy to play. You don’t need to do anything to be criticized, it comes to you.

The hardest part about receiving criticism is that it bruises your ego. And that’s tough. To effectively take criticism, you need to do a few things.

You need to have thick skin. It helps to remove yourself from your behavior that is being criticized. You, the person, are not being criticized, what you did/do is being criticized.

You need to be able to see through the person’s motivation giving you that criticism. To understand if there is really something there to improve. People are crazy, and self-serving. Is this criticism coming from a good place?

You need to be honest with yourself. Is this criticism valid? It might be. If one person says it, there might be something there. If two people say it, it’s something you really have to look into. If three or more people say it, you really should think about changing that behavior.

You need to understand what exactly should be improved. Because what the person says and what should be improved aren’t always the same thing. Someone may tell you to ‘stop being so lazy,’ and that might be valid. The problem is that the term ‘lazy’ comes off as something you can adjust in your mind. In reality, maybe you just need to sleep more. Or you might need to change your diet to eat foods that add to energy and don’t set you up for a big crash. Think about what the criticism is?

Who are you changing for? You might say, screw that…that’s just me. I’m not changing for anyone. But that’s just it…you should never be changing for them. You change to improve yourself. Understand that I’m not perfect. You’re not. Nobody is. And that with criticism, we can improve.

I know it’s not easy, but look at criticism as a positive. Even when it’s negative.  

Now, the delivery of effective or constructive criticism is harder than taking it.

Before you criticize anyone, ever, ask yourself, what’s the best possible outcome from this criticism? Why are you criticizing them? Is it to truly benefit that other person? Is it to benefit you in some way? Do you just like to give advice?

Too often people send criticism as sharp knives piercing to the soul. And oftentimes comes out of anger or insecurity on the giver’s part. If you really want to get results from criticism, there are some things to consider.

Remove your own ego. Don’t let you feeling superior to anyone allow you to criticize. The end result from any criticism may affect you, but the behavioral change you are looking for has nothing to do with you. And everything to do with this other person.

Remove your emotion. Don’t give criticism when you’re angry, flipping out, or sad. Do not turn this into a fight. You want to maximize the effectiveness of this, you will increase your chances if you have a clear mind.

Consider the feelings of the receiver. If it is truly beneficial to someone else, or it is truly beneficial to you (and not just to insult someone else) then you must keep in mind the person’s ego that you are about to bruise. This also speaks to timing…understand there is no great time to criticize someone, but there are better times than others. What is that person going through right now? Where is he or she emotionally?

De-personalize the information coming across. This isn’t about the person you are criticizing, it’s about their behavior. Understand that. Tell them that.

Brace yourself for a counter-attack. Most people want to answer criticism with a jab of their own. No matter how softly you bruise someone’s ego, understand that you are still bruising it. And oftentimes they want to knock yours around too. Remove your emotion and you should be able to withstand this.

If you really want someone to improve their behavior, for them and/or for you, you need to get better at giving it. You will find the better you are at giving feedback, the easier it will be for the people on the other end to take. And you will find that they respond better.

The critic has a choice…to hold their tongue or to freely speak, to rip someone to shreds or to help someone improve, to help or to hurt. 

You will play both of these roles, the critic and the criticized, often. Think before you speak when giving criticism. Think before you react after getting it.