Life has ups and downs and twist and turns. Just when you think you should go left, something forces you right. Just when you start to go up, something knocks you down. It can be crazy and confusing and fun and exhilarating. It can be fulfilling and heartbreaking. Have you ever met someone that had the courage to call you out? To look you in the eyes and be 100% honest with you? Not about life. About you? About your struggles and your weakness and your own issues? About how they effect those that come in contact with you? How it effects your life and relationships?
This recently happened to me. It was some of the hardest stuff that I have ever had to hear about myself but there was so much truth. I could relate to what was being said because the words stung a little. I could look at myself and know this was not a lie. I could take it in and see that it was not coming from a negative place. It was not meant to hurt, it was meant to help. How do I know this? It didn’t only come with criticism. It came with advice and suggestions and reasons. It came with something positive that I could take away. Something, I could work on.
It wasn’t, “This is wrong and I don’t like you.” It was, “This is wrong and I would like to help you fix it.”
There is a big difference between an insult and constructive criticism. Most people do not realize there is a difference, so two things are happening. The giver is not being heard and the receiver is not taking it in.
Let’s dive in. What is the difference between an insult and constructive criticism?
▪️Harsh words meant to point out something wrong with you.
▪️Word that are definitive and offer no gray area.
▪️Words that only have a negative impact.
▪️Words that cause you to question your worth.
▪️ Words that are delivered with the intention of hurting or belittling someone.
▪️ Insults are meant to break you down.
▪️Honest, yet hard to hear, words meant to point out something wrong with you.
▪️There is gray area in the issue or problem.
▪️ The words may initially have a negative impact until you listen to the reason they are being told to you.
▪️ The words come from a good place, a place of concern.
▪️ The words come with suggestions as to how to change the action or work on the problem.
▪️Constructive criticism is meant to be helpful.
Here is where the problem lies. A lot of times, when constructive criticism is given, the giver forgets to follow up with the ways to work on the problem. They forget the helpful advice. When this happens, it comes across as an insult. On the other side, the receiver, often times, is so defensive about the criticism that they are not in the mindset to hear the advice that comes along with it. No one wins. No one benefits. No one walks away any better. A lot of times, they walk away worse. Nothing is solved.
Communication is lacking and we all could use a lesson in it. I am not always the best, so I know I could. I am defensive. I don’t take criticism well. I have a listening problem. I make assumptions immediately that the criticism is coming from a negative place. I don’t hear it. I don’t listen for social cues. I don’t watch for them. I miss them and end up coming acrossed as shallow and self absorbed. I was not aware of this but now I am and it is something I am working on. It is something that I know I need to do better at.
My boss once said to me that the best way to deliver constructive criticism is to follow the “Build, Burn, Build” principle. I have found this to work incredibly well in my professional life and my personal life.
So what is it? First, you build the person up. You compliment them, you point out the things they are doing right. You stroke their ego. This opens the lines of communication and breaks down the defensive barriers. Next, you burn them. You point out the negative quality or the wrong doing while the walls are down. While they are open to listen. Then, finally you build them back up. You give them advice to fix the issues and assure them that you know that they can achieve the task or challenge at hand by referring back to the positive qualities from your initial build. You offer assistance and you cheer them on.
Build. Burn. Build.
Such a simple concept, but most of us miss the first or the last build and the communications is lost. You can’t fix something if you don’t know it’s wrong. You can’t fix something if you have no idea how to start. If doing something wrong is they only way I know how to do it, then how can I change without advice? Telling me “You are doing it wrong,” will not help to change my actions, it will only make me justify my actions. It will only belittle me. Take a listen to this. “I really like how you are going about this. It shows some real effort. I can see you are working really hard and really thought outside the box. It’s impressive, but unfortunately it is not the correct way to do it. It would be better if you… I know you will have no problem finishing because I saw how hard you were trying to get this done. If you have any problems or questions, I am here to help you, just let me know, I want you to succeed.” Now, the goal in both scenarios was the same. The goal was to let me know what I was doing was wrong so that I would do it right. One gave me the confidence and the tools to fix the problem. The other just left me feeling helpless and defensive.
Build. Burn. Build. It works every time.
So, back to where this all started. I received some really helpful constructive criticism. Now, I know what I was doing wrong and I know have some concrete ways to change my actions. It was hard to hear. It is hard to change but when someone delivers the message in the right way, the words get heard and I heard them loud and clear. Unfortunately, I don’t think I received this criticism in time to salvage some of the relationships it was doing the most damage to but I know it will help me as I move forward with my adventures in dating. As I move forward in life.
I have said this before and I will say it again. God brings everyone in to our lives for a reason. I am not sure this person’s reason is to be here for a lifetime, it would be nice if it was. It may just be a season but I am enjoying it while it lasts. And if it doesn’t? I will walk away with something to work on that will make me a better version of me. And for that, I am thankful.
Life is hard. Making changes is hard. Having people come into our lives for just a season is hard. Through it all, we learn, we grow, we make memories and we become more prepared for the next season. And we should always remember, in the midst of chaos, sparkle. Don’t let life dull your shine.
The Manicured Mom