“If I were you, I would…”
My late father-in-law, Chappell Bailey, used to say “I hate the statement- If I were you, I would do so and so. It’s stupid! If you were me, you’d do exactly what I did.” He had an amazing sense of humor. As humorous as that is, what makes it funny to me is that it is truth. Yet, whether solicited or not, probably everyone reading has had someone to give them advice beginning with this popular phrase. Why is that? It’s because no person has ever done anything of significance without criticism. In fact, if there is no criticism associated with what you are doing, evaluate what you are doing to see if it is of significance.
Earlier today, I read a quote on social media that has been attributed to Ryan Leak. It was so good that I had to share it. It said – The biggest mistake you can make in managing criticism is believing that one person’s opinion is everybody’s opinion. Let that sink in for a minute. Just because one person has an unfavorable opinion about what you are doing or a decision you’ve made doesn’t mean that everyone views it the same way. Even if they do, an opinion is just that, an OPINION! It is a view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge. So, before you let an opinion sway you from doing what you desire to do, let’s think through how we can let criticism work for us.
Understand That Some Criticism is Constructive
Constructive criticism is usually well reasoned. It involves both positive and negative feedback. One who receives constructive criticism is usually made better by the outcome. They can accentuate the positives, work toward correcting the negatives, and end up on top.
Don’t Take it Personal
First off, let me say that I know this one is easier said than done. However, in my research for information concerning the psychological effects of criticism, I discovered that it is quite common for individuals to take criticism more personally than we should. If we can learn to view criticism in the context of the particular situation it was directed instead of viewing criticism as an attack on who we are as a person, we can be made better for it.
In my line of work, we have to write personal support letters as well as newsletter stories. In addition, we rotate writing a monthly article for a local newspaper. Well, I pride myself on being a pretty decent writer. I enjoy storytelling. I even considered majoring in journalism when I was in college. I majored in music because I loved it more. However, writing has always been a passion of mine. Since I’ve been working with Youth for Christ, I’ve been told that my writing was pretty good. Well, one day I turned in a newspaper article for review before submitting. My executive director replied with, “I know this may come as a surprise to you, but I don’t like this article. It just didn’t speak to me. It’s more of a report than an engaging article.” If I was thin-skinned and easily offended by criticism, I could’ve gotten defensive. Instead, I gave the article another read and realized how correct he was. This was perhaps the worst article I had ever turned in. It was partially true because I do so much writing that this time I wasn’t inspired to write. It didn’t come naturally to me. I simply conjured up something to turn in and you could tell it from my first line. After going back to the drawing board, taking my time, and gathering my thoughts, I came up with something that he liked. After a week of the paper being out, I received calls and texts about how much people enjoyed the article.
Use Criticism as Fuel to Keep Going
Let’s explore the various types of critics. True “critics” such as food critics or film critics are people who really do know something about the thing they are criticizing. It would be smart to value their opinions a little more than others. You have “supporters” who really want to see you succeed. Even if the criticism they give hurts, it’s usually done with the intent of wanting you to improve and cheering for you to succeed. Listen to them also. Then there are shadenfreudists…heavy emphasis on “shade.” I promise that I didn’t make this one up. Look it up. Shadenfreude is defined as satisfaction felt at someone else’s misfortune or failure. Often times, they will criticize only to see you feel bad. Their low self-esteem causes them to feel good when you feel bad. Ignore them. Their criticism is not warranted and is often far-reaching. Lastly, there are plain ole’ “haters.” They usually don’t have anything going for themselves and will find fault with those who do. In each case, if you can identify the category that the person giving the criticism falls in, you can better assess how to process the criticism. If you can do that, what could’ve potentially caused you to pump the breaks will actually be the fuel you need to put the pedal to the metal and keep going toward whatever it is you are working to accomplish.
Romel Gibson is a youth and college pastor, mentor, community leader, motivational speaker, musician, and songwriter living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He serves as a full- time Campus Life Director with Youth for Christ, one of the largest non-profit youth evangelism ministries in the world. As a songwriter, his most notable works include L. Spenser Smith and Testament (Greater, Surgery), Tonya Baker (Miracles), The Anointed Pace Sisters (Praise and Worship), Myron Butler (Changed), Marvin Sapp (Never), Ruben Studdard (Holding On To You Lord), and Johnny Gill (Black Box).Romel has been married for 12 years to his college best friend Quanedra. Together they have been blessed with three beautiful daughters; Allayna Pilar, Moriah Kelis, and Rylee Addison.