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Do you have trouble taking criticism? I think it’s a rare individual who hasn’t had issues with taking criticism at one time or another. Partially, this is how we are constructed. If we feel criticized, we feel rejected, like we don’t belong or our work isn’t accepted or there is something wrong with us deep down to the core.

But this trouble accepting criticism isn’t only a product of our psychological makeup. I think it has as much to do with how that criticism is served up.

True criticism is something that the criticized person can do something about.

The best way to illustrate this is to use examples. If I ask for feedback on a piece of writing and the critic says, “I’m not understanding paragraph four on page two … there seems to be something missing,” that’s advice I can use, after probing a bit for more feedback, to fix my writing.  If the critic says, “This piece sucks!”, I can’t do jack with that.

An awful lot of what passes for criticism in our society is of the latter “That sucks!” variety. Rather than being true criticism, however, it reads psychologically as condemnation. Those who suck are condemned to their suckitude without having any mechanism to crawl out of it. If the critic would have substituted “I hate that” or “That’s not to my taste” for “That sucks,” then the statement could be read as opinion by the person on the receiving end, and thus, be summarily dismissed as opinion, rather than wholesale rejection.

See the difference?