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Being Critical


JosephM
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From Nelsons natural World.....

 

"It is completely normal for people to criticize others around them from time to time – we’re all guilty of it! Criticism can be a natural way of letting off steam and making others aware that you are unhappy with their behaviour. In fact, criticism – if done constructively – can actually be productive and helpful to the person being criticized. However, some people are constantly critical of other people and seem unable to make allowances for even the smallest of “faults”. This kind of criticism is destructive, both to the person it is aimed at and to the person who is doing the criticizing."

 

I think this is an interesting topic because it is a most common occurance in our lives. While critical thinking has its benefits and may be constructive when working with Newtonian principles and also as pointed out above, with other people , such thinking often turns to habitual criticisms and are in my opinion and experience more often not constructive or healthy. This includes criticisms not only of people but i might add of other things such as organizations, products, governments, religions, etc. ,

 

It seems to me, when we are 'overly critical' of other people or things, it is usually because we are unhappy with ourselves and projecting that onto others.

 

Nelsons Natural World lists some emotional causes as

Being frustrated with their own lives

Jealousy of others

Having unmet goals

General unhappiness

Anger

Self- loathing

Feeling taken advantage of by other people

Feeling unlucky or cursed in some way

Inferiority complex

Lack of self-confidence

 

The question i would ask for dialog is .... Just where do you consider the line between constructive and non-constructive criticism (being overly critical)? How do you recognize when it is unconscious and more out of habit rather than out of love ?

 

Your thoughts,

Joseph

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Joseph,

 

I think there is a big difference between "critical thinking" and "criticizing." The former entails careful, analytical thought and judgement while the latter involves fault finding. I can't think of many situations in which I would advise against critical thinking. I think we should carefully examine any proposition or assertion to determine if it has merit. However, fault finding should, IMO, be exercised much more judiciously and when it is potentially productive.

 

George

Edited by GeorgeW
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I agree with George in that critical thinking is a learned skill. The target of critical thinking is the integrity of one's own knowledge base and subsequent improvements in decision making. In some sense, it could well be the case that critical thinking often leads one away from criticism of others.

 

Myron

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The question i would ask for dialog is .... Just where do you consider the line between constructive and non-constructive criticism (being overly critical)? How do you recognize when it is unconscious and more out of habit rather than out of love ?

 

The more I thought about this question, the harder I found it to answer.

 

I think most would commonly say that criticism is constructive if it is meant with the best of intent and is delivered appropriately and received accordingly. It is raised to assist another or improve something. For instance, in a work environment where a manager provides constructive criticism to a direct report about their people skills and the manager is correct, the direct report does need to make some adjustments in this area.

 

But where it all starts to get messy is when the criticism is received as non-constructive, or where perhaps the criticism is an opinion that isn't neccessarily right (or isn't the only right answer) even if it is genuinely meant with the best of intent.

 

The other thing I started to think about was what actually makes the criticism constructive? Normally I think it's regarded as constructive if it is warranted (see above example), but is it constructive if the receiver doesn't want to consider the criticism and instead puts barriers up between them and the critic? Sure the determination of constructiveness or non-constructiveness may rest with the criticised, but that doesn't neccessarily change the fact that criticism that should be viewed as constructive turns out to be non-constructive (or am I just thinking too much?).

 

Perhaps the line rests with the critic considering not only if the criticism is warranted, but also if it might be received as constructive. Then again, does that mean warranted criticism is withheld simply because there is concern about how the criticised will receive the criticism?

 

As for recognising when it's more out of habit rather than love, I imagine that's a little hard to do at the time if it is an unconscious behaviour. That said, I expect at some point (either when it is pointed out or when there is reflection) one may realise they are prone to this unconscious behaviour and may be very conscious to ensure they don't execute it.

 

I think for me personally, I can easily fall into the trap of criticising somebody else's behaviour and/or beliefs, justifying it as constructive because I believe it's warranted, yet make the criticism knowing that it won't be constructive at all in relation to the other person's thought processes and/or behvaiour, in fact it may even polarise us more. That being the case, is it construcive or non-constructive criticism?

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PaulS

Normally I think it's regarded as constructive if it is warranted (see above example), but is it constructive if the receiver doesn't want to consider the criticism and instead puts barriers up between them and the critic?

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Can it be constructive if the receiver doesn't see it as valid information - for whatever reason.

 

At work there is an issue or two that always are raised in listening meetings. Everytime. The employee is convinced that this question would make the world work as it should.

 

Management does not follow up with an effective response - or the critic doesn't hear it. Next time issue is brought up again.

 

How much does it count if the receiver does not see an application? How much does it count if the criticism is correct or not?

 

Is it the critical thinker who determines that what is said is constructive or is it the receiver? I think it is both.

 

Critiquing whether or not it is valid depends on a response. If there is no response - and the critic has no power to change things - then it is not constructine

 

Dutch

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I think most would commonly say that criticism is constructive if it is meant with the best of intent and is delivered appropriately and received accordingly. It is raised to assist another or improve something.

 

The other thing I started to think about was what actually makes the criticism constructive? Normally I think it's regarded as constructive if it is warranted (see above example), but is it constructive if the receiver doesn't want to consider the criticism and instead puts barriers up between them and the critic?

 

Perhaps the line rests with the critic considering not only if the criticism is warranted, but also if it might be received as constructive. Then again, does that mean warranted criticism is withheld simply because there is concern about how the criticised will receive the criticism?

 

As for recognising when it's more out of habit rather than love, I imagine that's a little hard to do at the time if it is an unconscious behaviour. That said, I expect at some point (either when it is pointed out or when there is reflection) one may realise they are prone to this unconscious behaviour and may be very conscious to ensure they don't execute it.

 

 

Critiquing whether or not it is valid depends on a response. If there is no response - and the critic has no power to change things - then it is not constructine

 

 

Obviously, we or at least most of us cannot know if the criticism will be accepted as constructive by the other but as PaulS pointed out and i agree intent and accuracy is most important to begin a contructive criticism. If one can see that it is ineffective but the intent was contructive and we have no power as Dutch said to change things, and it is not accepted, i would disagree with Dutch that it would then be not constructive because It seems to me that it would still have been appropriate because of the contructive intent of the criticizer and it yet may be received later after some thought or reflection by the other. It is still constructive in the sense that it is opposed to destructive. (ref: dictionary) It would only really becomes non-constructive in my view if it becomes a repetitive criticism that is refused since intent is then in question.

 

In summary, i believe we cannot be responsible for the receiver and only for our best delivery and intent and if we do a good job i think the criticism was constructive whether received that way or not. Constructive in the sense that we offered to the other something we would like to receive ourself for improvement that may be accepted after thought at a later date even if not now.. What we offered may or may not be correct except in our own eyes but each of us has a duty to sincerely offer what we feel is contructive to the group / organization / society / government mission we are part of.

 

It seems to me it only becomes non-constructive when the intent is more to blame or find fault or bolster ones own ego rather than improve things OR it is continually repeated after knowing it was neither wanted nor received in good spirit.

 

I think PaulS has pointed out well that reflection is important in recognizing in ourselves patterns that point to unconscious behavior or habit of a criticising nature.

 

Joseph

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Perhaps petty - for my ego. We can offer someone the results of our critical thinking but it is not constructive unless something is constructed.

 

A theater reviewer can offer her critical thinking about a play, its meaning and its place in history. She can judge the play as poor good or best. None of that critical thinking is constructive. She may have an opinion about whether the play works well on a thrust stage versus theater in the round. If the director or producers don't agree or ignore or refuse to consider the ideas I don't think that is constructive. To say that it is puts all the power in the hand of the critic. The shared thinking must in some way empower the critiqued to do a new thing for it to be constructive. I guess only the critiqued can authentically say that it was constructive criticism otherwise the critic assumes they have the best answer.

 

I agree, Joseph, with your comments on blaming, fault finding, and criticism based on psychological or ideological needs.

 

Dutch

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We can offer someone the results of our critical thinking but it is not constructive unless something is constructed.

 

Critical thinking can result in a benefit to only the critical thinker. One can critically examine an issue or proposition in order to decide what action the thinker might take.

 

Voting, is a good example. We would like for voters to carefully examine the candidates and issues before casting a secret ballot instead of acting emotionally or intuitively. The person may also wish to share their conclusions with others, but this is not necessary for there to be a constructive result.

 

I can also think of a number of religious propositions that I think should be examined with critical thinking.

 

George

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