The value of Criticism: An Optimist’s perspective

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Handle With Care.”

“You can’t be creative without criticism. If your life is without critics then maybe you are painting your life’s masterpiece with only a broken brown crayon.”
― Shannon L. Alder



In love, we are giving someone the power to hurt us and trusting them not to. We become vulnerable, and there is a beauty to that. In art, work or other measurements of our accomplishments, we expose our work to the potential criticism of all, experts and ignorants alike. We know to brace for criticism, in fact, we expect it.

Being in Medicine, I know a thing or two about handling criticism. It comes from professors, from our bosses, our colleagues and our patients. We are constantly being evaluated and at length it can become tiresome and close to irrelevant. It gets to the point where the evaluation form almost says more about the person who evaluates you rather than the person being evaluated.

When it comes to constructive criticism, certain things matter:


Whereas our friends and family will be biased, true objectivity may be found in a stranger’s perspective. This may contribute to our personal growth or sense of failure. Yet, the reaction we get from the outside is often kinder than our own worst enemy: our own self-critic. The voice that perks up to remind us we aren’t quite that good, and shouldn’t even try. Regardless, if we want to get better at what we do, we must know our weaknesses. And who better to highlight our setbacks than someone who hasn’t spent as much effort and rumination on this project.

The hardest sort of criticism to bear comes either from people you dislike (which isn’t likely to change), or from those who matter most, an esteemed mentor or your family members. No one wants to disappoint those they look up to.


Not all objects of criticism are equal.

it is much easier to accept criticism when it relates to a subject we are inherently not good at. The difficulties arise when we take pride in a particular talent which is then questioned.


Circumstances matter. If you’ve already had a bad day or little sleep, criticism will not only be less welcome, but also less tolerated. End of day criticisms work less well for me.


C’est le son qui fait la musique. aka it’s the tone that makes the music. My mother used to tell that how you ask for something or how you criticise someone drastically changes the outcome. As a teenager, if I wanted to use the car, the answer was invariable no. I could use reason and argue till I was blue in the face, it only made my dad more determined not to give it to me. yet if I asked nicely, and he said no, and I just said ‘ok then’ sounding disappointed and walked away, 9 times out of 10 I would get the car. Mom = Master manipulator? maybe, but she taught me how to use my power for good 🙂

A couple of tips that generally make the criticism pill easier to swallow:

1) take the person aside, never criticize someone in public, criticism works best when it is expressed under 4 eyes.

2) I generally use a positive feedback as well in the same discussion to remind the person that they also do certain things right. Despite this, it is generally the criticism that individuals remember rather than their strengths, which much more important.

3) Do not criticize the person for who they are, rather what they do, create, deliver.

4) practice makes perfect, both at giving and receiving criticism

5) Mutual evaluations – where the person who dishes out the criticism expects to also be evaluated.


Some individuals generally do not question their own actions, nor see the other person’s point of view when confronted with criticism. They are wrong, I must be right.


Perhaps we ought to raise our children to value themselves not by what they do wrong, but rather by the kind of person they strive to be. Remember that until you fail at something, you still have yet to reach your full potential.

Cheers Guys!


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