Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Is criticism always personal?

Yes, criticism is always personal, despite what articles claim (eg, Quora). As a Receiver of criticism, we tend to fail to differentiate between Sender, Message, and Receiver (ie, us). There are exceptions because some Senders are skilled in delivering their Message of criticism.

Hence, it makes sense that our response follows the 5 stages of processing grief a.k.a. the Kübler-Ross model, being: (1) denial, (2) anger, (3) bargaining, (4) depression, and (5) acceptance. In my view, that 5th stage is only possible if the Message contains a truth. Else, anger is more likely.

In the early 1980s, I received a counselling comment and was advised “to count to ten” before using my sharp tongue. He added that I would be more effective in my career while biting my tongue. His comment was personal but did not hurt me. I accepted his comment because it was the truth.

Some 15 years ago, an Internal Audit Department criticized my work (eg, deadline, progress). I did not understand that criticism as the deadline had not yet passed and my work was almost completed. During their criticism, I suddenly realized that my anger was their real goal (eg, reverse psychology).

Some 10 years ago, I was criticized by another Internal Audit Department for a project for which I was not even responsible and only partly accountable. I realized they were looking for a scapegoat as the project was – indeed – failing. Being a contractor and a foreigner, I was an easy target. I left soon after.

Hence, most criticism is never simple, always complex and personal. You must focus on who is the true Sender, what is the hidden Message, and who is the ultimate Receiver, if not you. Most of all, you must focus on why that Message is being sent to you because Everything follows Why.

Our default human response for processing grief (ie, denial, anger, bargaining, depression) is often the wrong response and even prevents us from seeing the bigger picture. When our emotions take over, our rational thinking becomes difficult. Anger is a perfect way to stop you from thinking.

“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”

A quote by Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915), an American writer and philosopher; see related blog.

Criticize (1987) by Alexander O’Neal
artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-artist, Wiki-song

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless in quotes or stated otherwise.

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