The Dubious Need for Criticism



The Nature of Criticism

Criticism is a common form of behaviour among many communities. It is an innate negative tendency of the human race albeit avoidable, to find fault with others that is then highlighted in some  way-usually with verbal abuse- rather than suppressed or tolerated for the benefit of the party at the receiving end. It transfers bad sentiments far more often than provide for useful discourse.

It is often a good question whether criticism levelled at people really says more about them or rather just reflects poorly upon the person passing the critical words. It can be said that the perpetrator has a misplaced need to be critical more than anything else. The content of the criticism is rarely a well-thought piece and has little regard for the other's well-being. On the contrary, it does little good afterwards but leaves much in the way of damaged pride and hard feelings which are then potentially carried over to some future point in time when there could be a similar tongue-lashing when least expected. Indeed it is a tool of enmity and works against good social relations.

When issuing criticism, one does not usually have any intention of making it constructive. What it turns out as is a quick delivery of a feeling of disdain for another through words blurted out in a way hard to be appreciated by anyone, let alone the one being criticized. Truth be told, none of us likes to be criticized. So, why does anyone do it?  There is hardly any other reaction possible than to just recoil out of shame and feel repressed or to lash out in anger, sometimes uncontrollably. This is so because the action of criticizing, frequently, though not invariably, seeks to elevate oneself at the cost of degrading the other. Herein lies the problem.

Constructive Criticism ?

Is there then such a thing as constructive criticism?  It is very likely that this term was coined for those times when the criticism is not confrontational in nature, hence, one is not under the difficult situation of taking it straight in the face. It is not usual for someone to respond positively in such a case, by saying, for example, "Thank you for that comment! I appreciate what you just said and will make an effort to correct what I did." Certainly, it will not be with a smiling face. If anything, it puts most people in a defensive stance, unfortunately not knowing how to respond even with the best of intentions.  Constructive criticism in professional settings can, however, be perceived as feedback and this is an entirely different matter. Common criticism is largely individualistic and in that sense it can be viewed as a personal attack.

The better approach is then to understand ourselves and the other person better before starting to criticize. Refrain from it especially in the presence of others that are unrelated to the issue at hand. It would help to notice one's own feelings after having criticised someone. Do you actually feel better or does something keep nagging at you not to have done that? That is an indication at the innermost level for the averagely decent person that criticism isn't the best of ways. Try understanding, tolerance, respect and forbearance. These would fare better in your favour and you would be someone who takes responsibility for actions and not blame others.

Dealing with Being Criticised

What if you actually are at the receiving end of a bout of criticism ?  Think about it. Instead of being always defensive which may allow the criticising party to drive home their conclusions upon you, why not just relent ? Hence, in a sense, just go along with it or agree. This is not to say you undermine your own beliefs and risk corroding your self-esteem. Rather, you provide the avenue for the steam to be let off without actually taking the heat upon yourself unduly. This undoubtedly makes the antagonists feel less of themselves afterwards as they would not have succeeded in putting you down. You also learn something about yourself and the other person from different perspectives.  Above all, you remain composed in the end and prevent feeling edgy with people in gatherings, hence becoming socially confident.