Tag Archives: constructive criticism

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 28

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In the end, people appreciate honest criticism 
      far more than flattery.
Proverbs 28:23 (NLT)

While studying theatre in college, my professor worked hard to teach us the value of honest criticism and temptation of listening to empty flattery. After a show you’ll have a throng of people tell you “good job,” but that hollow compliment does nothing for you. When someone tells you “good job,” my professor said, your response should be “What was good about it?” A specific praise about a moment, an action, or a decision you made on stage that struck them positively is something from which you can learn and build on. A simple “good job,” profits you nothing.

Better still is when someone gives you the gift of an honest piece of criticism. A character in the script I’m polishing up is given a very specific age to play. After reading the play, one of the readers commented that the lines and stage directions seemed too young for the age described. When she said that it was like a cloud parted and I saw it for the first time. She hit the nail on the head. I completely rewrote a bunch of dialogue and action to fix it.

I don’t understand people who think criticism is a bad thing, inherently negative, and something not to be tolerated. I may not like some of what I hear, but if I understand what’s not working for people I can fix it or at least I can better communicate why I’m doing or saying or acting the way I do so that others can have a better understanding of the decisions I’ve made.

Today, I’m grateful for those in my life who are willing to be honestly critical with me.

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 13

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If you ignore criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace; 
      if you accept correction, you will be honored.
Proverbs 13:18 (NLT) 

It is frustrating to have the desire and ability to help another person succeed, to offer your assistance, only to have your offer shunned. In my job as a consultant and business coach, I face this situation all the time. I’m always saddened when others’ insecurities and pride lead to their own unnecessary troubles.

I was called into a meeting with a young businessman and department head. Intelligent and gifted in certain areas, he had risen to a position of some prominence for a person his age. Like all leaders, like all human beings, his growing job description and sphere of authority placed him in new roles for which he was not as innately gifted. Even his superiors knew he needed some guidance and assistance to work on and shore up skill sets in which he was lacking.

Sitting across the desk from me, the young man flatly rejected the notion that he needed guidance or assistance of any kind. Slamming the desk with his hand, he made it clear that the perception he needed to improve in certain areas was completely wrong. When I tried to express that I was only offering some constructive criticism, he explained that he didn’t believe criticism of any kind was constructive. Criticism, he went on to say, is inherently negative and he would not tolerate it.

It became quickly apparent to me that I was wasting my breath and my time. I have observed from a distance as the young leader has struggled. His department and his company are struggling as a result.

I contrast this experience with another leader in the same company. Wildly successful, this gentleman unexpectedly called and asked me to meet with him. “You have knowledge and experience I don’t have,” he explained to me over a cup of coffee. “You’re my guy. I want to learn from you.” I soon came to  learn that this leader had several “guys” who were experts in different life disciplines. Recognizing and accepting his own shortcomings, he became a sponge soaking up all of the wisdom and information he could gather from others who were gifted in areas he was not. “How am I doing?” he asks me regularly when he sees me. “What can I do to improve?”

I could not help but think of these contrasting leaders as I read the proverb above in today’s chapter. God, help me be honest and humble enough to accept my shortcomings, to accept criticism and to continually improve the areas I am lacking.