Criticism or advice?

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There are people who invite and embrace constructive feedback, and some who detest hearing anything that seems to criticize them or their actions. I’m sure you’ve come across a few of each type.

I overhead this in a boutique store recently: A bride-to-be was trying on gowns, surrounded by her bridesmaids and family brought there specifically to provide input into what suited her best.

As she tried on each dress, there were choruses of oohs and aahs for every single one, making it difficult for her to decide. Until the only man in the group (I gathered him to be her father), piped up: “I actually don’t like any of them”. This brought murmurs from the onlookers saying they hadn’t liked any either. There ensued a lively discussion between bride and father about how he started the whole thing. She got defensive on every point he tried to raise about each dress. Finally, he said, “Why do you ask for feedback if you will not take it?”

Apparently, everyone there knew the bride as someone who did not like receiving feedback on anything, let alone wedding gowns. Here, she was just doing the gown try-on for the tradition of it. Everyone followed along and pretended to like everything. But trust a dad to tell his daughter the truth!

This happens with leaders who claim to embrace feedback but bristle when they are given it. It happens with opinionated people who think they know better than others.

Those who get irritated or defensive upon receiving advice or criticism are limiting their opportunities to grow or improve. Typically, they are insecure about themselves or their abilities, and so must justify themselves. Or they really do think they know it all or have a high opinion of themselves. These people have the disadvantage of not seeing themselves through another’s eyes. Many remain as they are, since they lack the ability to accept feedback, advice or tips for change or improvement.

Some call it stubbornness, but it’s more. People who disregard another person’s experience or point of view tend to be judgemental about people, cultures, beliefs, countries, and so on. This can lead to a narrow, prejudiced and uninformed view of the world, which ultimately is not helpful….. to them!

Advice, especially from people interested in our success, well-being or knowledge, is usually given for our own good. Insights from those with experience, are useful. Even if we don’t like what we hear, a good way to handle it is to listen, nod wisely, accept the information and store it away. Whether we act on it or not is up to us. The first step is to listen without pushing back. Have an opinion but hear that of others – there may be a few nuggets worth learning.

Every bit of advice can help us grow!

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