The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism. ~Norman Vincent Peale
For the third week in my “Life Lessons Learned from a Year in business” I want to talk briefly about criticism. This is the hardest lesson that I’ve learned over this past year, and probably the most important. (p.s. I’m still working on this and probably will be for the rest of my life.) In business as well as in life, you will encounter criticism. Accept it. Does accepting criticism mean change everything? Does it mean that you should give up? You’re no good? NO.
Accepting criticism means listening openly, asking questions and thanking the person for being open with you. Then, weigh the criticism and depending on its weight decide if action needs to be taken. Actions taken might extend from a large overhaul, to a little tweaking, to no changes at all.
Accepting criticism is something that I have been fairly poor at for most of my life. If you don’t know me all that well, you might not know that my degree is in music, specifically Vocal Music. My husband will be glad to tell you how ridiculous I am about practicing. I avoid practicing in front of people, even him, because they might think something bad or… heaven forbid, say something critical of my singing. I’ve yet to overcome that with my singing… and my fears don’t stop there. Most of the time I won’t even exercise or cook or dance in front of people (including my husband) because I’m too scared of criticism.
I did, however, take a big step in my business toward putting myself in criticisms’ path. My husband and I live in an apartment building that is specifically for artists and musicians. We have a great community room in which artists can display their work, have get togethers and meetings, etc. I decided a few months ago that I would like to encourage people in the building to work on their respective art in the community room together. On most Fridays, sometimes by myself, and sometimes with others, I have worked in this common space. More than anything this has allowed me to get over the fright of creating in front of others. Although I haven’t specifically received any criticism in this situation, I have received suggestions and criticism throughout my year in business. I am hoping that working with others in this situation will help us to respect each other enough to offer and accept criticism openly. This type of collaboration can only lead to good.
I find that most of the time, criticism is meant to help. It generally comes from respect. If no one is offering you criticism, then you might want to question whether you are actually doing anything.
To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing. ~Elbert Hubbard