How to react to criticism | PostIndependent.com

How to react to criticism

Ross Talbott
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Let me start with a little scenario to make my point.

Some day you go out for lunch at a local restaurant. Let’s say the meal was not to good and maybe the service was slow and inadequate. Now you check out and the hostess asks “How was everything?” Not wanting to be offensive you just smile and say “It was fine, thanks” and walk out.

Then you go tell your friends to never eat there and swear you are never going back.

Well, that was a rotten thing to do. Any legitimate business appreciates honest criticism. The business wants to thrive, and all the employees need their jobs. Give them a chance to apologize, correct the problem and make things better. Then come back in a few days and see how they are doing.

Personal offense and criticism needs to be also dealt with. First of all, maybe you misunderstood the situation and the fair thing is to check it out before you fire back. Secondly, maybe the perpetrator was not aware of the problem and needs to correct it and /or apologize.

Sadly enough, the common response to being challenged by a different opinion or understanding is to question the intelligence or motive of the one who differs with you.

There are two sides to the issue of criticism. What you say can be helpful or damaging. Is your motive to be constructive or divisive? Are you reacting to a perceived offense? A foundational aspect of human nature is personal identity. That identity is composed of your political, cultural, spiritual and relational beliefs. Those beliefs come from parents, teachers, friends, professors and clerics. When a challenge comes to our beliefs we overreact because it is an attack to our identity. Maybe we need to do some introspection and make sure our identity is based on truth.

Someone said that preconceived ideas are the greatest block to truth. Some also say that the only absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth. (Good luck with that one.) As the political scene heats up we are smothered in criticism. The future of our nation depends on the voters getting it right. The stakes are really high.

Remember the old playground saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me?” Good luck with that one also. Did you realize that if you take the word “words” and put the s on the other end it becomes “sword?”

Driven by the proper motive and delivered in a caring way, criticism can be constructive and helpful. When it’s delivered in a defensive and intolerant way it can be divisive and painful. On the other hand if incoming criticism is received thoughtfully and without taking offense, it will be helpful to make your business better, improve your relationships and make you a better person.

Another important facet is that a small offense can sometimes distract us from the main issue.

Suppose the army is in a battle and the sergeant insults or offends the tank driver. Is the driver just going to say to heck with this and shut down and walk off? If the flight attendant offends the pilot would he just jump out?

If you have an argument with your spouse while driving are you just going to pull over, get out and walk home?

The greater mission might be your business, your church or your family. A good place to look for advice is Ephesians 6:10-18. It says to gird your waist with truth, put on the breastplate of righteousness, be shod with the gospel of peace, take the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit.

Finally, in Luke 6:28 it says, “Bless those who curse you and pray for those who spitefully use you.” If you want me to bless you and pray for you, then take a swipe at me.

“Out On A Limb” appears on the first Tuesday of the month. Ross L. Talbott lives in New Castle, where he is a business owner.


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