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November 21, 2012 / alipeles

What about unfair criticism?

Following my last post, some people have asked how to handle insincere, unfair, or wacky criticism if not to rebut it, especially in a public forum.

Critical feedback is rarely pure. People find it difficult to articulate what precisely went wrong and critics usually have an investment in the situation, so potentially a subjective bias. Criticism is rich data, but interpretation can be a bit of work. That’s why it’s so important to clarify, ask questions, and keep the critic on side. As I said in the original post, if criticism surprises you (i.e. seems to come out of nowhere), then it’s probably valuable.

Without a doubt, some people will have a rough day and “kick the dog”, letting their moods drive the decision to criticize, rather than a need to communicate. But, bad moods make people intolerant more than vicious. Take the magnitude of such criticism with a grain of salt, but don’t ignore it. Someone’s low threshold for lashing out might actually benefit you. It gets the person to tell you something that might otherwise never have been mentioned.

Most importantly, don’t rebut insincere or unfair criticism because there’s no point. You can’t change an unreasonable person’s mind and it wouldn’t matter if you did. Instead, let that person and others to see you as a mature and reasonable person who listens and cares even in difficult situations.

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