Last week a friend forwarded a review of her recent article in the Statesman. It was a scathing review and took her completely by surprise. I commiserated with her, having been in the same situation with music critics. When an unflattering review of my concert appeared in the paper, with the critic sparing no words, I had cringed with shame. The accompanying photo only added insult to injury. That’s when I remembered my aunt’s sage advice, “Any criticism, however unwelcome, is better than no feedback at all!”
What is the worst that could happen in such a scenario? My friends and family would recall the offending review for a day, at best a week and then move on. But I still hadn‘t. I had also conveniently forgotten the good reviews that had appeared in the same press. In my naiveté, I’d assumed that the world revolved around me. Luckily it didn’t.
No one likes to be criticized. Why do we find it difficult to accept criticism? In my opinion, how criticism is delivered makes all the difference. A soft tone of voice, a pleasant expression, and relaxed body language while communicating, is the key. It’s non-trivial especially when we’re frothing at the mouth and have worked ourselves up to face our unsuspecting quarry. Like a well-made sandwich, criticism has to be layered. Start with a compliment, then go for the jugular with your constructive criticism and finish with another compliment. When criticism is warranted, don’t hesitate. It takes grace to accept criticism, and courage to dole it out. Winston Churchill’s quote comes to mind. “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same functions as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”