I never realized…

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this bit of wisdom – “Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, or a stranger.” (Franklin P. Jones). Perhaps we all have trouble accepting constructive criticism from anyone. It’s “shields up” time whenever one senses incoming criticism, whether giving to be constructive or not.

I suppose the most helpful attitude one can adopt is to start by realizing and admitting that we are not perfect; that there are always going to be things that we could improve upon. The next thing to keep in mind is that you are hearing someone else’s perspective on something in your life or mannerisms that affects or has an effect on others. People don’t usually comment on things that only affect you; unless they see them as self-destructive and they’re try to help you before you hurt yourself.

Sometimes the things that someone else may comment upon are things that you have no way of seeing yourself. I have a “friend” who admonishes me to smile whenever he sees me. He tells me no one likes to meet a person with a frown on their face. Now, I know that I’m not purposely frowning; that is just the normal demeanor that my face shows when I’m relaxed and not necessarily trying to show any emotion. I really have to work at remembering to smile. I’ve even noted in a mirror that when I think I’m smiling, all I’ve done is wipe the frown off my face and returned it to a neutral look (at least non-threatening and not frown-y).

My wife is always telling me – “Don’t be so negative all the time.” I’m not really a negative person, but my sense of humor makes its first reach towards the negative view of things. I have to watch that, too. That’s another of those things that is hard to see from the inside. The line between funny and cynical is very fine.

I suppose that one should take this topic the other way and say that, if no one is offering you any criticism, go ask for some. Ask what could I have done better to serve you or how can I be a better husband or wife or boss or employee. Sometimes that will open a floodgate of pent-up critiques; but better to get those criticisms out than to let them continue to build up and fester in that person. Sometimes, I suspect, we don’t ask those questions because we don’t want to hear the answers – we don’t want the criticism.

The most honest and oft used immediate response to criticism is, “Wow, I never realized!” If you had realized, would you have changed? That’s the real question. I think most would answer, “Well, yeah; I don’t want to be perceived that way.” So, don’t approach this from the perspective of “What’s wrong with me?” Rather, take the view, “How can I be a better person by doing something differently?” That way you can make a win out of taking the criticism to heart and making those changes. Start by asking someone that you are working with or for, “How am I doing or what can I be doing differently to be better?” Then drop the shields, listen and take action to make corrections. And, make sure to thank that person for their honest and helpful input. That will make it a win-win situation. So, go ahead, make my day and tell me I need to smile.

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