Constructive criticism is meant to be a communication technique to identify and hopefully, find solutions to problems or issues in a positive way.
Do you have a problem taking constructive criticism?
If a very dear friend expressed something negative about you that you don’t necessarily like or agree with, what is your first reaction? Is it natural for you to immediately go on the defense? Do you wonder if something is behind the feedback?
These questions helped me realize that I too was not entirely receptive of constructive criticism from people I loved. Instead of really taking their feedback into consideration, it was easier to question, “Why they felt they have the expertise to critique me?”
I thought to myself, “Hey, they have faults too” and when they started to point mines out, I would join in and it would turn into a useless session of finger pointing.
We must choose our friends carefully and by doing that correctly, we should be able to trust our friends and be willing to open up to the idea that they are only offering constructive criticism that will benefit and help us become more of the beautiful individual they already think we are, after all, it’s your friend so they must think you’re ok in some capacity.
Constructive critics vs. haters
There is a fine line between constructive criticism and just being spiteful and cruel but often times, the lines are blurred for many reasons. Black women are strong women who, in most cases, have battled to gain respect in society (with no help from the media) and many women consider this (or any) line of questioning or corrective advice as a direct attack. In addition, common insecurities can send black women(or all women for that matter) into defense mode with lightening speed! It’s very easy to conceptualize a small failure as proof of inadequacy, which can in turn provoke an emotional response instead of a self-review because, after all, we’re women (studies show we use emotions a lot more than men, not being sexist, just stating the fact so don't kill the messenger).
Benefits of Constructive Criticism
Learning how to receive constructive criticism can help identify areas that need improvement and may even work as a motivational tool to correct and/or improve some character flaws or situations that we may not have noticed.
Other people’s perception of who you are could be completely different from what you think you are displaying. Most friends develop a connection that allows them to pick up on unauthentic actions therefore, while you think you are covering something up; they were aware of it a long time ago.
Women’s intuition is another tool that black women have a knack for and with this tool a friend can pick up on falsehoods, character flaws and lies. Don’t underestimate this method of detection because often times ignoring it will leave you hurt in the end.
Are you a woman who accepts constructive criticism from her friends and sincerely considers the feedback or do you dismiss it without a thought of factuality?
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Does feedback always sound like someone is “hating” on you? Do you care to ask for clarification or do you just immediately start defending yourself?
2. While a friend is offering constructive criticism do you automatically start compiling a list of their flaws?
3. Do you cut conversations short or find ways to slither out of conversations that include constructive criticism?
4. Instead of taking in the constructive criticism, do you hold a grudge against your friend for her feedback?
5. Do you think there is a negative underlying motive to most constructive criticism?
6. Do you receive constructive criticism from men easier than women?
Answering yes to more than three of these questions may give you an idea of how open (or closed) you are to receiving constructive criticism.
Following the tips from Lisa Blackwell’s article, try these exercises:
If you answered "yes" to three or more of the questions listed above, you may be a woman who has trouble accepting feedback. So what can you do about it? Try the following exercise:
1. Ask family and friends whose judgment you trust to give you one or two suggestions on how you can improve yourself. Caution: Do not perform this exercise with people you know to be negative or extremely critical.
2. Take notes of their suggestions to review later in private.
3. When in private, write down how you felt while hearing each suggestion. Pay attention to any negative feelings you felt. Did you feel defensive because you didn't respect a person's opinion on the topic? Did the suggestions trigger feelings of inadequacy you have felt in the past?
4. Next, make a plan to implement actions to address the suggestions you received if they are realistic, favorable and doable.
5. Then follow up with each person after you have implemented their advice, and express your gratitude for their honesty.
Repeat this process every couple of months until you no longer feel dread when asking for feedback.
For those providing feedback, people generally only accept constructive criticism from people they respect. If someone repeatedly balks when you give helpful advice, it may be because they do not respect you or your opinion, and this presents a different problem altogether