Criticism or Counsel?

Have you ever become defensive when criticized? It is rare to see a man accept and process criticism instead of defending his actions. Instead, it is very common to see him defend himself to protect his dignity.

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I’ve done the latter many times, only to realize one thing: It didn’t help me one bit. It only made me unwilling and unable to learn from what others noticed. It only made me sure I was right and blind to my need for improvement.

I previously saw criticism as an attack on my self worth. Recently, though, I am trying to find the counsel hidden within criticism.

I have plenty of friends who are very encouraging and optimistic. Though I am grateful for them, I need more friends who will pull me forward out of my comfort zone. Who will challenge me and poke at my weaknesses, forcing me to improve. Who will call me out when I don’t live up to my potential.

Until I develop more relationships with that kind of healthy friction, I will open my ears to whatever criticism I can find.

Wait a minute. Why would you pay attention to the attacks of critics?

Criticism often contains helpful advice, even despite any ill intent. Let’s look at an example.

If I redesign an application at work and receive nothing but compliments, I will be unaware of the problems with it. More helpful than another compliment would be the random comment: “What’s wrong with your app? It crashes every time I edit my information.”

I can work with that! It gives me a hint of an existing problem so I can confirm and fix it. You can do the same with criticism in your area of expertise.

In the absence of blunt and honest feedback, the random critic becomes a counselor, helping you improve your product.

And for that, you can be ever grateful.

What if you changed your perspective so you could appreciate criticism as counsel?