3 Mistakes Critics Make and How to Avoid Them

Imagine this. On your way to work, all lanes of traffic are blocked. Your blood starts to boil and the veins in your neck start bulging. You flip the radio stations and there is nothing but commercials everywhere. When traffic finally does start moving you closer to the office, you are angry down to your soul. 

When you get to work, your secretary says enthusiastically, “Good morning!” 

You stare at her with daggers in your eyes that if launched, would cut her in half. 

“Maybe it’s good for you. Mine will be better when you get me the Thompson report on my desk!” 

She sheepishly retreats, smiling hesitantly, saying nothing that will burn the wick on your stick of dynamite any faster than you are burning it yourself. 

There are three big mistakes we make when we criticize others. 

You just saw the first one. We criticize because we’re angry. We spew venom, beat others into submission, and smolder the sparks of creativity people have. 

Imagine this. One of your subordinates comes to you and says, “The instructions you gave me were wrong. It was a plastic plate, not a foam one.” Rather than thank him for his information, you tell him his uniform is dirty. 

If someone tells us that we’re wrong, we might retaliate to even the score. The second reason we criticize is that we are threatened when someone else outsmarts us.

Have you ever treated someone differently after he has failed at something? That’s the third reason we criticize. 

Do you see a common thread joining these 3 mistakes? They all have the same target. When we’re mad, feel outdone, or see ourselves as superior, we criticize the person along with the action. When we are mad, we can alienate everyone around us with our words. When we are jealous because someone has pointed out one of our mistakes, we bristle and lash out to protect our egos. When we feel superior to someone, we bolster that feeling with belittling comments and discouragement.

The solution is to keep your criticism positive.

If you want to do this, aim your evaluation on the behavior. Remember that the purpose of criticism is to make improvements. If there’s a problem, you’ll need to find out what caused it. After that, think through the possibilities. Then choose the path that leads to the improvement you want. And make sure the other person is aware that your goal is for both of you to win. 

If you want to avoid the mistakes that come from negative criticism, keep your cool. Don’t judge others when they point out your mistakes. And give people grace when they’ve failed. Then you’ll be able to solve problems and everyone will win. 

Your partner in the business world,

Frank McKinley