Being self-critical stems from our core beliefs which, unless corrected, will continue. But how many of us are aware that each time we say something we’re being critical, or even self-critical? Therefore, we shouldn’t take offence if someone points out that is what we’re doing.
In the early days negativity wasn’t something I was consciously aware of, but the older I got the more I became aware of where my negativity was coming from. Childhood can sometimes be a breeding ground for negativity. But as long as we’re aware, with understanding and practice, there is no reason why we cannot change. It’s all about perception, how we choose to see ourselves and our life. We must embrace new perceptions.
If someone tells us we’re being negative, we should accept that we probably are. This can be the first step in recognising those traits in ourselves. What others say should always be taken as constructive and not personal.
However, some of us will use criticism as a weapon. Those who are critical don’t think about the way they speak, they just speak. They’ll bleat something out, then perhaps think about what they’ve said after they’ve said it, by which time it’s too late to retract their words.
But critical people are critical because of how they feel about themselves. We should remember there is always a bigger picture to someone’s emotions. Someone just doesn’t let off steam at someone because they want to hurt them. They’re not always consciously aware of why they’re not happy, or why they’re feeling angry. Those feelings are usually buried in the subconscious.
I remember attending prize-giving for my daughter, when the headmistress talked to the girls about ‘constructive criticism’. She was trying to impress upon them that the harder they worked in school, the more they would achieve. She was referring to the girls who didn’t work during the academic year, stressing that if they began to work, they could do better next year.
Her point resonated. I believe there is a difference between criticism and constructive criticism, and how easy it is for us to take both personally. If the person we’re talking to, benefits or improves from what is being said, then constructive criticism has to be a good thing.
We need to remember that when we hand out constructive criticism, the person we’re talking to has to receive it as constructive. If we fail to get that across, we’re automatically setting ourselves up for failure even before we’ve begun. Statements like, ‘I need you to…’ or ‘I want you to…’ won’t help us. All they’ll do is make the other person go on the defensive.
Any criticism works better when it’s offered with the right attitude. When there is a negative history between two people, it won’t make a difference: both must change their attitudes. When we take a team approach and use words like, ‘Let us look at…’ the other person is less likely to go on the defensive.
Constructive criticism is used in schools and colleges, by parents and other institutions where learning takes place. It may also be used to manipulate other people into believing what’s being said, instead of as a tool to help.