Remember the “Church Lady” from SNL? Comedian Dana Carvey portrayed a Puritanesque churchgoer hosting a made-up talk show called “Church Chat”. Guests on her “show” were exposed to her self-righteous rebukes delivered in a hilariously high and sanctimonious tone of voice. Don’t you wish all personal criticism could be that funny! When someone points out to me an area in my life they’ve noticed I could improve in, I have a choice. So do you. Here’s the choice: WILL WE BE MOLDED OR SCOLDED?
CRITICISM = GROWTH
CRITICISM = GRIEF
As a leader I’m accustomed to receiving my share of criticism. What leader isn’t? I wish I could say that the older I get the less it hurts. But I can’t. For me, it always hurts. Emotionally, I mean. I’m very sensitive; it’s my blessing and curse. My sensitivity enables me to profoundly connect with other people in positive ways but it also makes me vulnerable to deep psychological cuts and bruises. I’ve realized a raw reality about my leadership: How I choose to interpret criticism will determine whether I will merely GO through the pain or GROW through the pain. Either way, for me at least, it’s going to be painful. It’s just a matter of which attitude I’m going to adopt as I experience it. Most people don’t change when they “see the light”, they change when they “feel the heat”. Have you found that to be true? I have. I’ve learned firsthand the wisdom of the Proverb which says:
“Sometimes It takes a painful situation to make us change our ways.” – Proverbs 20:30 (GN)
Pain is motivating! Sitting on a tack gets me moving. When I’m pricked with a criticism, I want to be able to learn and grow from the experience. What about you? How well do you take criticism? Do you see it more as a time of molding or scolding; growth or grief? For example…
- When your boss gives you an unfavorable performance review at work…
- When your spouse points out how you could have handled that situation better…
- When your child tells you’re not listening to them…
- When your friend works up the courage to confront you about the unfair way you’re treating him/her…
Yes, these moments are painful…but to borrow a phrase from my fellow North Carolinian, John Cougar Mellencamp, can’t we “make it hurt so good”?
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” – Proverbs 27:6a (NKJV)
Criticism can be painful AND helpful. Just because criticism is unenjoyable doesn’t mean it’s disloyal. Especially if the person giving it to you is a friend.
Criticism becomes helpful when you become teachable. (tweet that)
Below I’ve listed some questions to ask yourself whenever you’re processing criticism leveled against you. I drew 5 of the 6 questions from Blaine Lee’s marvelous book The Power Principle. Next time you’re criticized ask yourself these questions to develop your teachability:
- Who is the source?
- What might I learn if I listen to them?
- Am I willing to learn from their criticism?
- Am I really listening?
- What can they teach me?
- Is there another way to look at things?
You can, if you choose, let criticism make you a better person.