“He has the right to criticize who has the heart to help.”—Abraham Lincoln
“Do you want feedback?” friends asked after a few of my recent speeches. “Not really” is my initial thought, thinking I am thrilled enough to have just delivered powerful content in new ways. It is our human nature to avoid critique, according to Norman Vincent Peale, the author renowned for his book, The Power of Positive Thinking. “The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism,” Peale has said.
Then, knowing I always grow by listening and discerning which pieces of information are useful, I step back from the glory moments on stage and accept the feedback offered. Surprisingly, the suggestions are minor, not the dreaded overall rejection some of us erroneously expect based on earlier conditioning.
In younger, more fragile years, I always wanted to hear what I was doing right, craving the acknowledgment of my worthiness from others that I finally learned to give to myself. Still, praise can be heartwarming, healing and uplifting, particularly when it is unsolicited versus expected. Relationships thrive when we consistently take the time to honor another’s gifts, and express our appreciation of another’s presence in our lives.
Yet, relationships also deepen when we can lovingly accept and offer criticism and stay present with the suggestions versus retreat or withdraw. The initial sting can make us want to run, or point a hurtful finger of blame at the messenger. However, if we see all of our relationships as tools for growth, we can learn from every interaction, whether it feels positive or negative.
This past year, I experienced moments of wanting to flee or disengage from friends who said some hurtful comments to me, or offered helpful suggestions that I resisted at first because I thought my way of doing something was fine. By taking time alone to regroup and gain perspective, I realized that what appeared harsh was actually very loving and constructive. The words that hurt helped me further claim my value or listen more effectively to the needs of others.
I also realized it can take the same courage to give criticism as it does to accept it, for sometimes we need to risk hurting others in order to help them.
Finding gentle or kind ways of delivering feedback in compassionate tones makes criticism easier to embrace as a learning tool to spur growth.
BELIEF TIP FOR THE WEEK:
Write out the statement below long-hand each day. Then, repeat out loud as frequently as you desire, but especially in the morning and at night when in restful states:
I allow myself to accept criticism as a tool for growth.
Beth Shedd’s photo of the bee amidst the colorful flowers reminds us to keep the initial sting of criticism in perspective as it can often lead to the blossoming of self-awareness.
SUMMER COACHING: Replenishing Body and Soul