Have you ever been told that you're too critical? That you find fault in everything? That you're "always negative"? If so, read on because you might be compromising more than you think.
Let's be honest - we're all critical sometimes. That fact may not be great or serve you well, though chances are, if it's only sometimes and not the norm, the damage and price of those occasions may not be too high.
If, however, you find yourself routinely focusing on what's wrong with someone or something, of sitting in harsh judgement of others, of constantly critiquing, you might be paying a higher price than you realize.
You lose a lot when you're super critical.
When you frequently critique those around you -- your colleagues, clients, boss, or employees -- here's just a few of the gifts you may be losing or denying yourself:
- respect of others
- productivity in the workplace
- morale and motivation of others
- people's willingness to support and help you
- your effectiveness in getting the job done
- collaboration and goodwill
- your approachability
In the past couple weeks, I had two clients offer feedback or "criticism" about a typo in an email I'd sent to them. Let me be clear here -- I am absolutely, 100% human and definitely make mistakes. Some people effectively point them out, and others, well, not so much.
Here's the details and how these two individuals offered their feedback and critique. You guess which one was super critical and which one was effective.
CASE #1: TYPO IN A NAME -- I had inadvertently mistyped a woman's first name. The email address was correct, so she received the article (and f-r-e-e ebook, I might add), however, the salutation read "Dear Diane" vs. "Dear Diana" (not her real name).
HER EMAIL TO ME:
(NOTE: This excerpt is verbatim, so please excuse the misplaced apostrophe and grammar)
Hi Marion, I am unsubscribing to your emails because I feel that a good form of communication is when you correctly spell the persons name in which you are trying to communicate with.Thank you and hope you have a great day.Sincerely, Diana (not her real name)
CASE #2: TYPO IN AN ARTICLE -- I received another email from a client commenting on one of my enews articles. She had found a typo and here's how she told me ...
HER EMAIL TO ME:
(NOTE: this email is verbatim and unedited. I'm baring my soul and boo boos here so you can see, hey, everyone makes mistakes. Remember, people show what they're made of by how they respond to those mistakes ... and the input).
"Dear Marion, I really enjoy your communication tips. I find them short, sweet, and to the point. I also find that they add value - it is not just fluff. However, and I am only mentioning this as constructive criticism ...in every communication there is a spelling error. For example in this one, the last paragraph says, "You can rep (vs. reap) the rewards as well"I continue to enjoy your communication tips but I always get tripped up when I see the errors because you are promoting "communication excellence"...I hope I have not offended you as that was not my intent - I am just trying to make you aware because I don't want you to lose credibility.
Thanks, Gail (not her name)
Each email made very valid points. What would your gut reaction be to receiving each? And how would that reaction differ?
My reaction to the first one was that I felt, "Wow, that's a little harsh". My response was to write back and apologize, explaining that there was no ill intent involved at all -- an explanation, not an excuse for the error. I lightheartedly suggested that with a name like "Finkelstein", I understood how frustrating misspelled names could be. I thanked her for taking the time to email me which I really did appreciate. I invited her to reconsider staying in touch with me via the enewsletter and continue receiving hands-on communication tips -- she opted not to (or so I concluded, based on her no response).
My reaction to the second email was very different. I was wowed by this person's skill in communicating. It was clear to me that she was coming from a place of respect and kindness. I felt honored that she provided positive feedback and saw the value in what I was doing. She demonstrated the ability to see the big picture and recognized that the typo was only a small part, albeit distracting, of the overall experience. I didn't feel attacked or judged; I felt respected and helped. My response? I emailed her back, thanked her for her honest comments and eagle eye, invited her to continue watching out for typos and anything she wanted to comment on, and invited her to join one of my webinars as my guest, as a thank you.
If you were Diana or Gail, what type of email would you have written? Maybe you would have ignored the typo or not even noticed the mistype. Perhaps you would have been ticked off and dashed off a curt email expressing your anger. Or it may be more your default action to email and, realizing it was an innocent mistake or the sign of an overloaded biz person, point out the error and request that it be addressed, maybe even find the humor in it.
When you critique, is your reaction equal and proportionate to the action that you find inappropriate? Ask yourself the following ...
Did the person intend to hurt or insult you, or was it simply an oversight?
Being an oversight doesn't make it right. A typo still needs to be corrected. A foot that's been stepped on still needs to be tended to. A project that is slipping in timelines still needs to meet the deadline. What it does do, however, is provide a new and fresh perspective -- the other person's. In doing so, it will change how you communicate with that person and that, in turn, will change your relationships.
Whether you find yourself being uber-critical or not, here's an eye-opening exercise you can do for the next 24 hours ...
CHALLENGE: refrain from critiquing (in thought, spoken or written word) for 24 hours
This challenge will make you painfully aware of how often you jump to conclusions, fly off the handle and slap judgement on others. (Boy, with all that exercise, who needs aerobics? LOL).
People will most likely benefit from your input and feedback when it comes from a place of love and support. Otherwise, it's just plain criticism, and that might not be useful to either of you. Think about the price before you critique.
PS: By the way, if you find a typo in this or anything I write, I really do want to know, so please advise me! ;o)
Until next time, here's to ...
Better communication, Better business, Better life,
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
© 2012 Marion Grobb Finkelstein
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete tagline with it: Communication catalyst, author, and professional speaker Marion Grobb Finkelstein motivates and teaches individuals and organizations across Canada and beyond, how to improve morale, confidence and productivity by changing how they communicate. Get weekly hands-on tips by signing up for "Marion's Communication Tips" at www.MarionSpeaks.com