We live in a world full of criticism. You see it on the TV. You see it in the Newspapers. You see it online. You see it in politics. You get it at work. Criticism can be especially difficult (at least for me) to deal with at times. This can especially in the case of difficult bosses, clients or co-workers you may have.

Now, I am not talking the other extreme where we are “So Damn Positive” that you make Stupid, Euphoric Business decisions without considering the consequences. I am talking about how people quite often are willing to criticise almost everything they see.

Criticism is very important as it’s a component of Critical Thinking – but when you take it to far, you can effectively:

– Been seen as “Negative”, “A Show Stopper”, “Uncooperative”.
– Develop a reputation as a “Control Freak” and even get labelled a “Non-Contributor” in your business or workplace.
– Slow down initiatives and change required to launch new products and improving what you do.
– People just stop listening to you and take you less seriously. Even worse, they just cut you out of as many business communications as possible out of fear of the criticiser disrupting their projects.

In one of my roles, I worked with a Manager that really didn’t have a good reputation with almost everyone. They were incredibility critical of almost everything they heard. That is, they really took this thinking to the extreme in that basic obvious “Business As Usual” requests would be nit-picked to death.

In fact, I remember developing a specific type of Promotion for them and having this odd conversation:

– Ed – Hi “Brian” as requested, I developed a promotion that we all agree with that should really drive patronage. We are keen to launch it with your approval as we believe it will work extremely well in the market.
– “Brian” – This won’t work. It seems not well thought out and you need to consider something else.
– Ed – Can I ask why?
– “Brian” – Well, it’s just not something I would do in this type of business.
– Ed – So what do you want to do?
– “Brian” – Come up with something intelligent that everyone agrees with.
– Ed – I have but you don’t like it. What do you want to do then?
– “Brian” – I have a meeting coming up, come see me later.

This was a standard conversation with this person and I wasn’t the only one that shared that opinion. The problem was that their “Default Setting” was to put everything down.

The problem this person faced was that as they were negative on everything – they couldn’t work in a fast enough time frame to meet the demands of the business we were in (causing even more problems, besides poor business performance).

Here is where it got interesting 🙂

If it was someone else’s idea, it would “Be Wrong”, “Be not well thought out”, require “Further Discussion” etc. However, if it was their idea – well:

– They would think it’s perfect and the best most well planned idea on the planet.
– The ideas would generally have little relevance in the business and sometimes would often seem like a “Random Pull of a Straw”.
– Although they could dish out criticism, they would get aggressive themselves and hostile when receiving it.
– They would ignore key contributors to the business about potential problems with their own ideas. Then, when their ideas went “Pear-Shaped” they would lie and pretend it wasn’t their idea and then criticise something or someone else for why it didn’t work.

As you can imagine, things didn’t go very well for this company and it was riddled with not only disappointed Managers, but a variety of customers that weren’t happy with the company’s performance.  This is the real thing that was obvious to me here, it is so easy to criticise ideas and people. But when you have to come up with something that is going to work – that is much harder.

In fact, when I am talking to people that over criticise, I always love to put it back on them and ask their suggestions.


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