“And, of course, with the birth of the first artist came the inevitable afterbirth- the critic.” – Mel Brook’s “Birth of the Art Critic.”
From the time we were little kids and let the crayons slip outside the line, someone will point out where they think we went wrong. However, I’ve learned that if I can identify what kind of critic has launched a grenade my way to blow up my self-worth, then I can react to the criticism in a positive manner. The adolescent retort of, “Oh, yeah, well so are you!” just doesn’t work anymore.
Here is how I categorize critics:
The Ignorant Critic is like the sports fan on his third six pack yelling at the wide receiver to run faster. They don’t know what they’re talking about but assume that if they’re loud enough, someone will think they are an expert.
The Destructive Critic will usually lie first by saying things like, “I want to give you some constructive criticism. The destructive critic points out your faults without any suggestions or solutions for improvement.
The Constructive Critic seldom, if ever, uses the word constructive criticism while talking to you about becoming better. They’ll use words like challenge, or suggestion, or encourage. A really good, constructive critic will make you feel better when you leave their presence. A good critic can walk you around yourself to see a blind spot in such a way that you make the choice to become better without any sense of shame for not being perfect.
The Vindictive Critic is someone who wants to hurt you with criticism. Usually, the vindictive critic will know your weaknesses and expose them with the deliberate intent to wound you. Yet they often say they are being constructive.
The Comparative Critic likes to compare you in a negative way to someone else or to them. They let you know that they would do it better than you because, well, they think they’re better than you. Or they compare you to some superstar who you really don’t even want to be like.
The Jealous Critic is hard to spot because they’re sneaky; no one will ever admit they are jealous of you. But they point out your faults not so much because you’re wrong, but because they are jealous and are looking for ways to feel superior to you. Their criticism is more about their inadequacy than it is about your faults.
The Unhappy Critic is never happy with anything- especially themselves- so they will criticize anything their unhappiness manages to run into that day. Avoid these people like the plague.
How to react to criticism
Regardless of the motive of the criticism, it is always good to examine the truth of the criticism.
- Is it true?
- If it’s true, what steps do I take to improve?
- Do I really care what that person thinks?
- How can I turn negative criticism into a positive force in my life?
Some folks say we just need thicker skin. However, a good friend, Gary Wiens, says we don’t need thicker skin; we need deeper roots.