Re-frame Criticism

Most people automatically flinch when they hear the word “criticism.”  Hearts beat a little faster and preparation for the worst is set in motion. Rather than react in such a typical way, you would be wise to re-frame criticism.

What Is Criticism Really?

Have you ever looked up synonyms for criticism? If you have, you already know that in addition to the more well-known synonyms such as judgment, critique, and review, which can also feel negative; there are other words like appreciation, appraisal, and elucidation, which are more positive in nature.

Who doesn’t want their work to be appreciated?  There is great value in the appreciation of work.  Think about the art world.  If someone said they appreciate your work of art, would you cringe?  Of course not, because even though they may not have told you what they appreciate about your work, you assume it is all good.  And . . .  your assumption is based solely on your interpretation of the word “appreciation.”

Criticism Is Someone’s Opinion

Both words, criticism and appreciation, are nothing more than another person’s opinion.  So, why not look at them both the same way?  In today’s society, people are so afraid of the word criticism that the mere thought of criticism “hurts.”  Why doesn’t it offer the same good feelings that the word appreciation generates?  It is merely the receiver’s interpretation of the words.

If someone tells you they love your work, don’t you want to know why?  If someone says they hate your work, don’t you still want to know why?  There is so much that can be learned from someone’s opinion or critique of your work (positive or negative).

Let’s go back to the appreciation of your work of art.  If the person who “loves” your work explained to you that what they actually appreciate about your work is that it reminds him of a sad, very emotional time in his life.  Your good feelings may be shattered.  To you, the work represent the most joyful moment of your life and you hear that this person feels sad just by looking at it.  Does that change his appreciation for your work? Does it change the value of your work?  No. They are simply expressing their opinion – nothing more.

The individual’s critique of your work is based on his life experiences – and no two people will ever experience life in exactly the same way. We all see things differently – through our own lens – and as a result, we all have different reactions.

This can be applied to every facet of life.  People have different experiences and those experiences create different reactions to everything – art, food, inventions, technology, relationships, etc. That is NOT a bad thing! It is simply life.

Instead of hearing the word criticism and cringing, try to think of it as an opportunity to learn and grow.  You are gaining knowledge.  You have been given a brief glimpse into someone else’s world.  They are sharing their perspective that comes from their experiences in the form of their critique of your work.  Their appreciation (critique) of your work is based solely on their own world view.

Criticism and appreciation are both good you think of it that way, right? When you learn to re-frame criticism, magical things can begin to happen.  

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