Wednesday, October 19, 2011


When is criticism acceptable? The answer is: when it is constructive. But then, when is constructive criticism accepted?

When it is worded and packaged rightly?
When concrete solutions/suggestions are provided for our benefit and improvement, instead of highly abstracted views?
When it doesn’t directly or indirectly question our core competence, even while suggesting avenues for improvement?
When it doesn’t question or touch on sensitive issues on our beliefs, faiths, and principles?
When it doesn't veer off into territories that are impertinent to the work?

Does the critic matter? Is it accepted when...
It comes from people whom we trust, regard, and respect?
It comes from experts?
It comes from a higher authority that demands respect?

Or maybe, most importantly, the criticism is accepted when we accept that there is always room for improvement and learning?

How a person reacts to criticism is a good test of their maturity and personality. Their own books and writings would preach and preach and preach (endlessly) on the magnanimity of acceptance, the need for humility, the necessity to step out of insecurities, the “evils” of ego, and yet, they would tweet, and rant, and protest, and scathe if God forbid, they receive one unpalatable “constructive criticism” :).

Anyway, the objective is not to discuss such people. But this person’s childish rants made me consider when constructive criticism could go awry. It is indeed easy to meticulously pick apart someone’s hard work in the name of providing constructive criticism. And yes, I’ve been there. I have encountered reviewers who mean well, but needlessly nit-pick, make assertions on subject areas that they know little about, jump to conclusions, and make assumptions on things that were not even specified. True, it’s harrowing to reason with such critics who are not open-minded themselves to reassess their statements, even when clarifications are made and evidences to the contrary are presented. On the other hand, there are those who suggest the same things, but word it in a manner that minimizes confrontation and expresses genuineness to clarify and improvise.

So, agreed, the critic’s language, intention, and open-mindedness are surely important factors. Knowing who the critic is might also bias our perceptions on whether the person is “qualified” to offer criticism, advice, or suggestions. But, I will reiterate the most important factor - it is your ability to be open-minded and critical with yourself. If you believe that there is always more to learn, if you desire to keep improving, if you respect or acknowledge the fact that others are entitled to their opinions and views, and if you’re secure within yourself, you’d be more accepting of criticism in general, constructive or not. Consequently, I believe you’d also develop the courage and wisdom to parse through it all, and objectively filter out the ones that don’t help you improve or grow.


Suvasini.... said...

You know this another of those conincidences which make me look for a greater explanation... I have been wanting to write about criticism for the past week and just havent been able to collect my thoughts... of course criticism in an everyday sense of the word not as a critique or a review really...

Will hopefully attempt soon enough...

Neeraja said...

A coincidence indeed :). Look forward to your thoughts!