Praise or criticism

Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.
Proverbs 9:8

At a networking function a few years ago, the developer of a product related an incident where he was offered feedback. The person giving the feedback asked the developer if he wanted praise or the truth. The implication was both daunting and clear: do you want me to tell you how great the product is, or do you want me to be honest?

The developer of the product responded that he wanted the truth. Then, he said, he braced himself for the barrage of criticism he knew would follow.

His reaction is typical; we crave praise and fear criticism. Most people won’t even ask the question–they just assume you want praise. They also assume that any criticism would hurt your feelings. So far too often, praise is all we hear.

What can you possibly learn from praise? It might make you feel good, but how will it help you improve what you do?

I admit, there was a time when I sought praise for my work. Like most people, I had a certain pride of ownership in what I did. And like most people, I wanted approval. But I’ve come to understand the value of improving your work–and there’s no way I can make improvements based solely on praise.

When someone offers praise, graciously accept it and then ask, “Is there anything I can do to make my work better?” Learn to encourage and embrace open, honest feedback. Even if you don’t think it’s justified, listen to it and try to learn from it.

Keep in mind, not all feedback and suggestions are equally helpful. Just because someone suggests a way to alter your work doesn’t mean you should automatically accept it. But you should evaluate those comments and weigh their usefulness. Stay true to yourself and your work while keeping your mind open to suggestions and possibilities.

So the next time someone asks if you want truthful feedback, say a silent prayer of thanks. If the person is offering honest suggestions to improve your work or your life, they’re giving you quite a gift.

We need constructive criticism in order to grow and improve. You can’t reach your potential with praise alone. Seek honest, open feedback and learn to make the most of it. The more you improve, the better off you’ll be.

The trouble with most of us is we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.
Norman Vincent Peale
1898 – 1993

Copyright © 2014 John Chancellor

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