“Be” Big: Grow by Managing Criticism

The other day I quoted Socrates. Today, I’m giving a shout-out to another legendary philosopher, Aristotle, who once said: “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” In other words, yes, you could somehow manage to isolate yourself to the point where no one is saying anything about you, as if you don’t exist. But, particularly in leadership, that is not possible. We are the opposite of isolationist; our very role and responsibilities call for us to be out there and exposed. With the great potential to do much, say much and be great, also comes the likelihood that (many) people are going to criticize you. You must be open to that criticism (comes with the territory, after all) but also realize not all criticism is created equal.

This was illustrated to me as I was going through the process of making final edits to a large research manuscript last week. Much of the reviewers’ criticism was warranted. But there were also very subjective edits, which I suspect were based off of these editors’ personal likes and opinions.

That said, there are three things we need to do with the inevitable criticism that comes with, well, anything but living under a rock:

1. Evaluate what criticism is valid. Take it to heart. Learn from it.

2. Consider the subjectivity of some critiques. The individuals making the critique may be coming from a completely different place, and may not necessarily be providing accurate suggestions. Create a filter for taking in all feedback; be it personal reflection, or perhaps the counsel of a trusted advisor.

3. Regardless of whether the critique is warranted or not, manage this criticism accordingly. The greatest opportunities are often accompanied by brutal feedback. Likewise, there is also great opportunity to feel crushed by criticism that comes from out of left field and is not justified. March on. Plow ahead.

As you can see, as much as it may be more comfortable to avoid criticism at all costs, isn’t it so much better to be in a position where we are saying, doing and being so much that we are under scrutiny?

Because, like Aristotle said, the only way to be have a life completely void of criticism is to not do or say anything – and what kind of a life is that?



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