Archive - March, 2015

Criticism: Constructive or Destructive?

Criticism can be a great thing. It keeps us from becoming myopic, helps us grow personally and often leads to recognizing and solving real problems. However, there is a significant difference between valuable ‘constructive criticism’ and a critical person who seems to only offer criticism that is destructive.

Criticism Pic

Criticism Pic

Here are three questions to discern between the two:

1. Are they willing to personally help solve the problem?

Critical people are all about the ‘hit and run.’ They are quick to point out what’s wrong, but there is a lack of willingness to be a part of the solution. If the problem is financial, are they willing to provide money? If the solution to problem requires time, will they rearrange their calendar? It’s one thing to say, “This is what’s wrong- you need to make it better.” it’s another to say, “This is what’s wrong and I will do whatever I can to help you make it better.”

2. How do they respond if you or others disagree?

No one is always 100% correct in their criticism. There will probably be parts where the person offering criticism is spot-on and other parts where they miss the mark. The question is whether or not they are willing to engage in a healthy dialogue about what they see. If there is no willingness to budge or to genuinely listen to another perspective(s), their criticism is less constructive and is more destructive.

3. What is the ‘spirit’ of their criticism?

When someone is offering criticism, it is often difficult to know their intent. One thing you can do is trying to listen ‘between the words.” What is the nature of the criticism? What is the heart in which it is being expressed? For criticism to be truly be constructive, it should be given with the goal of helping the recipient improve and be more successful, not to belittle or humiliate.

We all have given and received criticism. What advice would you add that may help criticism be less destructive and more constructive?

Water or Gasoline

People seem to fall into one of two categories… water or gasoline. Being able to discern between the two is important when building teams, discerning friendships, raising a family and even choosing a spouse.

Water or Gasoline Donovan Christian

Every arena of life is filled with ‘flare-ups’- challenging situations that have the potential to harm organizations and relationships. While some of these are preventable, most are not. The key, however, is not the prevention of these difficult situations, but the response.

When a ‘water’ person sees a flare-up, their instinctive response is to put water on the flame, thus reducing its destructive potential. Conversely, when a “gasoline” person sees a flare-up, their response is to douse it with flammable liquid. The result is just as we would expect, a difficult situation becoming more difficult… a small problem becoming a big problem… a contained flame with flickering embers becoming a raging inferno.

Water extinguishes. Fuel feeds. “For lack of wood, the fire goes out…” (Proverbs 26:20). It’s that simple.

One additional word of caution/encouragement. Water and gasoline are both contagious. If the initial response to a problem is with water, expect the bucket brigade. If it’s gas- pyromaniacs of the word unite. So… carefully guard the first response knowing this will determine much of what follows.

Which do you tend to be? Water or gasoline? How have you seen this to be true in your life situations?