24 November 2014
Criticism can be useful - this came to me when reviewing the notes from a mentoring session last week where we had been working on dealing with unwelcome feedback, blogs John Bowen.
In that specific instance the way that we react to criticism is important; sure it can hurt, but only if you let it, for we all have a choice in these things, and managing our defence mechanisms so that we react in a positive way is not easy, but it can be done.
I have written here before about the modern cult of taking offence and it seems to me that this is often a self-indulgence, especially among those who want to take offence on behalf of others. With that background it can be hard to persuade people that when someone is critical of you your reaction ought to be a considered one. Society today seems on the one hand to want us to be more tolerant and yet we behave in a far less tolerant way than we did, say, 20 or more years ago.
Something else that I wrote about was the principle that friction is a key component in motion; without friction you can't walk nor can vehicles take you anywhere. Friction between people can be a negative influence, but only if you let it become so, and it can be far more positive because differing opinions encourage debate that in turn develops our thinking.
In my teams I always sought to include people who would challenge my thinking. The last thing that I needed was a bunch of sycophants telling me how wonderful I was and there were times when things got heated, but that just shows the passion that people have in their work. As I say, it does need managing, but developing an atmosphere where people can feel free to express an opinion. 'Critique ideas, not people' was a mantra within the team, and one that we aimed for in dealing with others, and it also applied when people didn't like what we were doing.
If all we do is shut out the opinions of others, regardless of how they might make us feel, what does that make us? In the best scenario it denies us knowledge and in the worst case someone who does not tolerate the opinions of other people fits the definition of a bigot. I learnt a long time ago to be unruffled by what people say to me or about me - my time as a soccer referee helped this in no small way. If someone doesn't like what I do there is no point in me taking umbrage. I am more interested in why, because no matter how convinced I am that I am right I might not be and would rather keep an open mind.
John Bowen is an FM consultant