Ken Watanabe, in Problem Solving 101, gives us a second person to be aware of in relationship to taking care of problems. Mr. Critic looks at a situation and instead of approaching the problem with joy and confidence, he criticizes.
Mr. Critic, on the other hand, is never afraid to speak up. He is a professional criticizer. Whatever the plan, he is ready to point out the shortcomings and shoot down everyone else’s ideas. – Ken Watanable, Problem Solving 101 -pg. 6
The problem with critics is that we face two of them all the time. We face external critics and are often not daunted. But stand before the withering gale of accusations and condmenations of the inner critic and you will be reduced to the fetal position sucking your thumb. When these two critics work together the results can be deadly for our skills, abilities, and opportunities.
First, the external critic can be from anywhere. Sometimes, they are family members. Other times, they are friends or coworkers. Anyone can become a critic. The question is “what type of criticism it is” and “what kind of motivation do we see behind the criticism.” Constructive criticism helps us to overcome the issue at hand and allows us to strive for excellence in everything we try to accomplish. Non-constructive criticism tears down any positive advancement with the hope that no more will be made. These types of criticism are often accompanied by specific motives behind them. Constructive criticism can be delivered with two types of motives. The first is encouragement and care. The second is with hopes that it will frighten and cause no future movement. It is still good and true and yet it was delivered to cause the person to stop because of fear. This is pure manipulation. Non-constructive criticism is always delivered with a bad motive. It is designed to intimidate and keep the problem solver from moving forward.
Every problem solver must become skilled at recognizing type of criticism and the motive behind it.
Secondly, internal criticism can be crippling. It is often external criticism that has been internalized in such a way that it is dangerous and difficult to overcome. We become comfortable with the ideas that are told to us and they provide a warm blanket to justify not carrying out our purpose.
In the end we must learn not to regard the critic for anything other than a source of information. I was given a quote when I left my previous church. Trevor Carpenter, a fan of Teddy Roosevelt, gave me the quote that is detailed below. In the end, we must take Roosevelt’s advice and understand that the critic (even in my own brain) does not count more than standing in the arena of battle, win or lose.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
Theodore Roosevelt, “Man in the Arena” Speech given April 23, 1910
26th president of US (1858 – 1919)