Wednesday, July 06, 2022

On Receiving Criticism

 One of the things I am the worst at in the world is taking criticism constructively.

I cannot tell you specifically when this happened, although I suspect the trail runs back to the rather rocky relationship my father and I had when I was much younger.  It was never the "I am delivering bad news and bad things happened" story that so many other went through, thankfully.  My father in my younger days had a bit of a temper.  I learned to avoid the temper by simply not bringing things up because to bring things up meant upset, anger, loudness, and criticism.  

(As a note, to this day I cannot be in the presence of an argument or even a cross disagreement online. I will make myself scarce.)

My father and I got over this eventually, but the damage had already been done in retrospect.  I worked very hard to avoid criticism - with two exceptions of math course through my graduate program for example, I got nothing below a "B".  Any criticism arising from the educational experience I tended to read through quickly and then largely ignore or write off (The one piece of criticism from school I remember is my advisor in undergraduate studies telling me I needed to learn to argue more effectively in that I tended to go for the win, rather than for understanding.  He was right; I was just too foolish to hear it at the time).

You can get away with that for a long, long time.  But eventually - perhaps for me, this week - one comes to realize that criticism comes in two forms: the kind that is put forward out of reaction or anger and the criticism that is actually weaknesses that need to be addressed.  The first needs to be learned to be examined and let go if not relevant; the second needs to be examined and assessed and shored up.

All of this relates to my resume critique that my colleague has given me - not so much from his critiques which are things that need to be fixed, but the underlying fact that when I apply for a new job, I am going to have to explain a pretty defined career change and effective demotion.

Our critics - the legitimate ones, not the coat-tail verbal Molotov cocktail throwers - are our biggest friends, even thought they may consider themselves not our friends or even our enemies.  They can identify weaknesses in our personalities, our presentation, our plans, and our very lives in a way that can cut directly to the root of the problem in a way words from our friends and acquaintances cannot.

This is not a carte blanche to let everyone have a go at us on every subject, as that never seems to work out well either.  But what I need to avail myself of is the critical feedback that is available to me right now for improvement.

Re-reading that review was one of the most painful things I have done of late.  But, paying attention to it, there are two or three themes that come across (and really deserve another post for fullness).  Things that really need to be resolved before moving on.

After all, if the goal is continuous improvement, what better way that to start with our already identified flaws?

10 comments:

  1. Nylon124:01 AM

    Self-examination can be quite difficult but having "critical feedback" is a situation to be taken advantage of. Yah......easy for me to say since I'm not looking for new job. Best wishes TB..........:)

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    1. It is, Nylon12. It has just been a real challenge for me to accept. But I need to push through my discomfort.

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  2. Anonymous4:52 AM

    Hmmmm. Nothing can “continuously improve”, TB. At some point everything hits a plateau. We tend to see that as a bad thing … but is it?

    I don’t even know how to measure a plateau, really - is it measured in happiness? Responsibility? Money?

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    1. Anonymous - Yes and no. In some things there is a plateau: a simple answer is that thee is only so strong that I can ever become based on genetics and general body type. On the other hand, the practice of Iai is really a practice in continuous improvement as we never "arrive" at mastery. Literally, one could practice and improve upon some aspect of Iai until the moment one dies or gives up. It is just that not all improvement is visible.

      How to measure? Going back to strength training, I have hit plateaus where I simply do not seem to be able to lift any more weight at all, no matter how I try. I continue to try and in the background, other things are happening which may give me breakthroughs in different areas. As my Weight Coach The Berserker has said, the most important thing is to show up, even if you feel you do a substandard job. No improvement happens without showing up.

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  3. My way of dealing with that is to consider the source. If it's a jackass, well everything gets kicked by a jackass. But since you asked for the review, now go back and ask the reviewer what he recommends. A man with that kind of insight, doubtless has good recommendations. Taking or leaving them is up to you.

    To be honest, I was very close to you in this regard. When I had the TBI, that changed. It was a big personality change, and I have no other evidence for why. It shocked me. EVERYONE noticed that I brooked no baloney after I came back to work. I wasn't as tactful on the second reply. And I didn't put up with attacks on my performance. My Manager was new, and he was being fed sawdust by a couple guys that I had worked with for twenty plus years.

    Getting a TBI isn't worth the risk, I can't recommend that!!! But do go back to the man, and see what his recommendations are. He seems to be a sold guy from what you have said. You may be sore for a few days, but you'll grow stronger as a result. You know this.

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    1. STxAR - Unfortunately I can no longer go back - he has moved on. However, I do have his suggestions in the review, so I do at least have that.

      Source of the criticism is a big deal - that said, sometimes I have probably overlooked valid criticism based on the source, not the actual thing said (which is a flaw).

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  4. raven6:50 AM

    A true friend will tell you what they think you need to know, and not what they think you want to hear.

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    1. They do, Raven. Probably why they often seem so rare as well.

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  5. Nobody likes to be criticized. I think that's just the human nature is. When on the receiving end, it's often hard to discern the giver's motive, especially when our emotions kick in to respond.

    I learned a lot from my university piano teacher about giving criticism. She always found things to compliment me on first. Then she would say, "now work on . . ." or "try this . . . " Pointing out the positives first softened the negatives. It was a lesson I took to heart. It's often not what we say, but how we say it.

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    1. Leigh, you are absolutely correct - and actually slightly beat me to the next installment I was thinking of writing, which was on my own Sensei in Iaijutsu, who does exactly the same sort of corrections. It makes me try far harder than the blunt force trauma of, say, the review - but in both cases, the comments are meant for improvement. One is just more likely to be taken up than that other.

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