Why Criticism Doesn’t Work

I’m in the midst of reading the most groundbreaking book by Dale Carnegie: How to Win Friends and Influence People. I am sure most of you either read this book already or at the very least heard about it. If you have not, it’s time to grab your coat and run to the bookstore ASAP!

The take-away message is: “It is foolish to scold”. It’s crucial to realize that most people will never criticize themselves for anything, no matter how wrong it may be. You pointing out their flaws and shortcomings will not drive well with them and, most importantly, won’t correct their behaviour.

Do you know someone who doesn’t like being complimented, adored, valued? No? Of course not, everyone wants to feel important. Criticism, on the other hand, takes all of that away. You can’t take in criticism and still feel appreciated (which is our most dominant need!). It is natural then to reject criticism and find an excuse for your behaviour. Besides wounding our pride and our ego, criticism weakens our sense of significance. Feeling important is what keeps us sane and people will fight you back if you threaten to take that away from them. Each one of us has our own way of satisfying this need. What works for me, may not work for you, and vice versa. Tony Robbins explains how this works here. This video will teach you how to understand people’s motives and predict their behaviour once you know what drives them.

Let’s go back to why we don’t take criticism well. Why we rather find excuses and justifications for our actions, instead of improving our behaviour. Why? Because we are not led by logic – we are driven by emotions. Our biggest motivation is pride and vanity. We shield ourselves from the emotional pain by discarding criticism. It’s easier to think that something is wrong with the person criticizing us, than it is to admit that we might be the problem. It is our defence mechanism. Next time when you are about to criticize someone remember that the only thing you will get out of them is a bunch of excuses, justifications, oh and… resentment.

Criticizing will make people hate your guts, but it will NOT correct the action that offended you.

Look around, anyone can criticize, condemn and complain – this is what most people do all day long. When you really think about it, most of those people do not lead exceptional lives either. Dare to be different. The Universe gives you life that is a perfect reflection of who you are, what you believe in, and how you act. By not criticizing others, you won’t be criticized yourself. How great is this? Is it worth your effort now?

So what shall we do to get better at dealing with people?

  1. First of all, whenever an urge to criticize comes over you – hesitate. Do not do the natural thing, do not act on impulse – it is mostly wrong. Instead of condemning, try to understand the person in front of you. Where are they coming from, what is their viewpoint and why is it so different from yours? What happened to them that made them see it this way?
  2. In everyday situations do not focus on finding faults – focus on finding something to praise. Fill your day by giving heartfelt compliments, applause people when they do something right. We do not praise enough. Our default is to complain when something is wrong and say nothing when something is right. Change this around!
  3. In order to connect with people, talk about what the other person wants, not about what you want. Let them be the focus of the conversation. Make them feel important. They will associate you with feeling great about themselves and as a result they will want to spend more time with you, do things for you, and reciprocate your kindness.

Following the above steps will yield beautiful rewards in the form of a life filled with genuine, loyal and harmonious relationships.

I gave myself a life-long challenge to follow Abraham Lincoln’s words: “speak ill of no man … and speak all the good I know of everybody”. The question is: will you join me?


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: