Monday, March 26, 2007

Criticism

Critics are often accused of negativity, blamed for a lack of harmony in organizations, and viewed as destructive. Of course, all three perceptions are nonsense. The very best people in the world are the people who are self-critical and the very best organizations in the world are the organizations that allow and even encourage criticism. Criticism is the key component to continuous improvement. It is the feedback that tells people and organizations whether they are hitting or missing the mark.

I often read and hear others who claim that criticism is easy. These people believe it is more difficult to be positive. This too, is nonsense. Anyone can say what others want to hear using positive, yet insincere, affirmations. Positive affirmations are effortless, and without risk or cost. Criticism requires understanding, thought, and effort, as well as the risk of being rejected or misunderstood.

When my daughters were younger, I always knew instantly whether or not I was meeting their needs and expectations. I didn’t have to guess about the affect I was having on them. They told me exactly how they felt and I was then able to decide if I needed to adjust my behavior or provide them with a better explanation and rationale for my behavior. I loved their pure criticism. It made me a better father.

As they have grown, their criticism has started to change. They are not always so direct or honest anymore. Sometimes they want to hide how they really feel. Sometimes they try to be sensitive to my feelings. While other times they are a little manipulative, and less honest, in getting what want. I miss the purity of their criticism when they were younger.

I’m baffled that so few people acknowledge or even understand the virtue of criticism. I guess it’s just another part of living in a fallen world.

5 comments:

Buz said...

Now that's just a bunch of baloney ...

Buz

David M. Smith said...

OK, Buz, you got me. While insults don’t really qualify as criticism, not all criticism is thoughtful. : - )

Hammertime said...

David,
Few of us truly appreciate it. I'm not sure why you and I do, and many others do not. Bloggers in general seem to have very thin skins. I suspect most bloggers would not make very good public speakers in a forum where retort is permitted.

I've been privileged to stand on a stage in an irate church business meeting and tell the people, "No, you don't get to vote on everything." I got plenty of criticism for that - but we were all better for it.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Hammer,

Welcome back!

If I remember correctly, your first comment at my site was some serious criticism. It made me smile. I have always loved your comments because I know I am getting a completely honest reaction. More often than not, your criticism has made me realize I needed to explain my position more clearly or I needed to rethink something about my position.

Thankfully, I know I will never need to worry about you being sensitive to my feelings. : - )

Buz said...

YES.

A related word with "criticism" and "critic" is "critique".

Good criticism doesn't just tear down object, it categorizes the negative and positive aspects of the target. If possible, it may suggest improvements and methods to circumvent the obstacles.

Part of the reason I replied as I did was to expose the fact that what has been happening, on the political scene, is not criticism, but rather venom and character assassination. (The other part of the reason is that you just wrote a "kick me" sign in big letters and stuck it on your own back ... I am weak, I couldn't resist.)

Buz