Now on to something else. How many times has somebody offered you some “Constructive Criticism?” It’s usually a cringe-worthy offer at best. And when it was delivered, did you wonder what happened to the constructive part? Did you think that the word constructive should imply a positive aspect, only to find out that it was a phony and deceptive offer? And by the way, did this come from a friend, family member or co-worker of some kind who pretended only to have your best interest in mind?
Well, YES is the common answer. And my view of constructive criticism is that it’s another oxymoron. Others have said that, too. There is really nothing constructive about criticism. And I know I’m going to get some push-back on this but here’s how I look at it. Criticism as such, is basically a negative thing. Negativity always breeds more negativity in one form or another. Even if you think you’re helping someone by offering the big CC, you can’t expect to project negativity and get positive results in return.
Of course, let’s face it, so-called constructive criticism is not always offered for seemingly (and by the way, erroneous) positive reasons. It’s often done from an internal, negative emotion about someone else and the criticism is just a vehicle to express that. Adding the word constructive is often an attempt to hide the real feeling, unfortunately.
I’ve come up with my own Criticism Classification System and yep, you guessed, there are 3 categories of criticism:
Now these are my arbitrary categories, I don’t know if anyone else has used these particular ones but I do imagine there are other possibilities.
I see the first two as similar, where Opportunistic is typically seen in personal relationships and Competitive is primarily in business situations. The similarity revolves around the idea that there is something to be gained from the criticism. An advantage, superiority, control, etc.
The third category, Vindictive Criticism is the worst kind, not that any of them are particularly good. But you’ve all seen examples of this, right? And generally, this has nothing to do with the person at the other end of the criticism. The critic is typically experiencing a “life disorder” of some magnitude and somehow criticizing others makes them feel better for a few fleeting moments.
So, what’s the alternative? Simple – a more positive approach. In lieu of harsh direct criticism, suggest alternatives for a better outcome. Point out the typical negative results that may come about with particular activities or behaviors if need be. But that ought to be it. And by the way, there’s no political bent here, I’m not encouraging participation trophies or anything like that. It’s just a better way to handle it.
And what about when you’re offered constructive criticism? Well, here’s what I routinely do now. If someone asks me “Can I give you some constructive criticism,” I respond immediately with: “NO – but I’m occasionally interested in hearing other opinions.” That will usually stop them in their tracks or cause them to rethink their strategy.
In the next post, I’ll talk more about Competitive Criticism and how to deal with that.