Fear of negative criticism is natural. Our primitive brain creates this well-known fear. We all are hardwired and feel this fear in the fabric of our soul. This psychological phenomenon is widespread in the body of knowledge. Mental health practitioners developed processes and procedures to address this fear, especially when it passed the threshold levels and turned into a chronic psychological problem interfering life functions of individuals.
We humans do not like negative criticism. This type of criticism is usually undesirable and signals threat alarms to our survival. The hard-coded survival mechanism tries to protect us from this perceived threat. Yes, it is a perceived threat, not a real danger.
My central premise in this article is looking at the topic from survival versus thriving point of view. While survival keeps us safe in our comfort zones, thriving requires effort to move out of our comfort zones and challenge our abilities. This significant yet straightforward viewpoint is the major success factor for humans to grow and design their lives based on their desired goals and objectives.
To thrive, we simply need to embrace negative criticism. This notion sounds easier said than done for many of us. Accepting and embracing negative criticism requires substantial mental effort. We must switch from the instincts of our primitive brain and tap into our cognitive mind.
One of the best practices for achieving this challenging cognitive task is to use the mindfulness approach. Mindfulness practice can help us observe our thoughts, sensations, behavior, and external stimulus. The core merit of mindfulness is living in the moment.
Through mindfulness practice, we use our thinking part of the brain more efficiently. This efficient use can help us develop attention, focus, awareness, and reasoning muscles in the cortex.
How to accept and embrace negative criticism
Through mindfulness practice, we create a mental foundation and capacity to deal with negative criticism. A developed mental foundation and initial capacity are the starting points.
We then need to strengthen this foundation and increase the capacity incrementally making mindful living a disciplined lifestyle both in our personal and professional endeavors.
The next stage is to understand and learn the benefits of negative criticism. We can leverage prior knowledge for this. Evidently, many successful writers, leaders, professionals in various domains, public figures, celebrities have learnt the benefits of negative criticism by following prior learning from their parents, teachers, leaders, mentors, and coaches.
We can obtain prior knowledge from various sources such as biographies, educational materials, informal and formal education practices. Then this knowledge can be practiced individually or with the help of others.
What are the key benefits of accepting, embracing, and using negative criticism?
From a high level, the main benefit of negative criticism is to gain new perspectives in life. For example, the negative comments for our work can keep us alert and activate our cognitive brain to find alternative solutions. Paradoxically, negative criticism can be a positive motivation tool.
During this activation process, with new insights, we come up with interesting and alternative solutions. This process helps us become more creative and innovative.
Overall feedback for any initiative aims to maintain quality. Besides, negative feedback particularly has the potential to extend and expand the ideas, content, and other intellectual materials.
Let's consider a few practical examples of this in professional life. Prolific writers want their manuscripts to be torn apart by editors. The best selling books are edited multiple times with substantial criticism from editors, reviewers, beta readers, agents, and publishers.
Academia thrives with negative criticism. We know that academic world sounds cruel to the public. We think that academics are too critical, and nothing is right for them. There is truth to this point.
We have the same perception for scientists. Many double-blind studies are harshly criticized at many levels, but only with this criticism, we create more options and make them appealing to the majority.
Inventors' perspective to negative criticism
In my profession, I experienced the benefits of negative criticism substantially in the invention process. The process is rigorous because the end product must be novel, functioning, practical, and usable in society.
I have never seen cosy ideas to be patented. As an inventor and an active member of invention development and assessment teams, I learnt the value of negative criticism in this process. We see negative criticism as the best feedback.
The best inventors I met specifically solicit negative criticism in their review and feedback sessions. Even though positive feedback has inspirational and motivational value, it is the negative criticism that helps inventors to create alternative solutions, gain precision, and develop the final quality solution.
The inventors who use negative criticism as a productivity tool come up with original and insightful ideas leading to innovative products and services that can change our lives positively.
Negative criticism helps inventors to look at things from many perspectives and different levels.
By embracing negative criticism, inventors move from comfort zone to stretch and risk zones. Some super achievers even attempt to go to the danger zones once they fully overcome their fear and turn it to genuine understanding. Radioactivity, electricity, and nuclear energy patents are prime examples for the danger zone activities for inventors.
Inventors operating in risk and dangers zones are the ones shaking the world with high impact inventions. Initially, their ideas are scared, ridiculed, and even punished but once understood; people start embracing them and making them their heroes. Heroic ideas and implementation of those ideas are the ones that transformed our world to this modern state.
We have seen many examples of ridiculed and penalized ideas throughout history. Some inventors and thought leaders were even killed because of their radical ideas.
Fortunately, in the modern world, we developed and implemented freedom of information and freedom of thoughts. Many developed and democratic countries understood the importance of freedom of ideas, took appropriate measures, and implemented solutions in their legal system.
As a key caveat and important consideration, we shouldn't confuse negative criticism with destructive activities like insult, disrespect, abuse, intimidation, or harassment. Academics, scientists, inventors and other professionals provide negative feedback with respect and courtesy.
I want to provide a summary of key points to start using negative criticism as a productivity and growth tool.
- Step 1: We understand how our mind works and learn how to use our cognitive mind.
- Step 2: We develop a mindful lifestyle.
- Step 3: We create mental foundations and increase our mental capacity.
- Step 4: We strengthen our mental foundations and increase mental capacity
- Step 5. We understand and learn the benefits of negative criticism.
- Step 6. We condition our brain to accept negative criticism and repeat it in every opportunity.
- Step 7: We turn this psychological conditioning to a habit and embed it to our lifestyle.
Once we embed the use of negative criticism productively in our lifestyle, it can be reflected in our behavior and can turn to second nature. Then we reap the benefits sustainably.
Thank you for reading my perspective.
Original version of this story was published and curated in other platforms under my name (Dr Mehmet Yildiz). The link to prior version: https://medium.com/illumination-curated/negative-criticism-df22f5fe90a5
Ideas of this story were extracted from "A Technical Excellence Framework for Innovative Digital Transformation Leadership" authored by Dr Mehmet Yildiz - https://books2read.com/u/bQadQ6
About the Creator
I'm a writer and published author with four decades of content development experience in business, technology, leadership, and health. I work as a postdoctoral researcher and consultant. My background is at https://digitalmehmet.com.