On Criticism

Good words from Marcus Buckingham. Completely right:

Criticism has the power to do good when there is something that must be destroyed, dissolved or reduced, but it is capable only of harm when there is something to be built.

Here’s one application of this: If an employee (or family member!) comes to you with an idea, you don’t first ask yourself “what’s wrong with this?” You first focus on what’s right.

Even when there is something to be dissolved, criticism still has dangers. For example, in his book In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters talks about how studies showed that if employees in a call center were criticized on how they handled customers, the result was not better customer service. Rather, the employees sought to avoid customers (that, is their job!) altogether. 

The point: criticism typically creates unpredictable and strange behavior. It rarely does good, and frequently backfires and undoes the very thing that ought to have been built up.

This is especially worth remembering if you have the “gift of criticism.” If you have that talent, go, bury it right now, as fast as you can. That’s one gift the Lord does not want you to steward for his glory.

  • http://dustinsmetona.wordpress.com Dustin Smetona

    Great thoughts Matt! Had you ever read Dr. Alfred Poirier’s article from the Journal of Biblical Counseling called “The Cross and Criticism”? It develops a way to respond to criticism in light of the cross. Very helpful for growing in how we react when criticized whether it be loving and kind or stinging and harsh. If you haven’t read it, I’d heartily recommend doing so. Here’s a link to it: http://www.peacemaker.net/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=aqKFLTOBIpH&b=1084263&ct=1245843

  • http://scripturealone.blogspot.com Eric Schumacher

    Matt – Where does this come from (book, blog)?

  • anonymous

    thank you for your criticism of criticism

  • Matt

    Eric: I came across it again in my notes. I think it’s either from First, Break All the Rules or Now, Discover Your Strengths.

    Dustin: I haven’t seen that–thanks for pointing me to it!