Flack: Constructive criticism necessary for improvement

Sean Flack

I knew this girl once who was probably the most critical person I’ve ever met. This wasn’t unfounded criticism or anything, she actually had good points and equally good intentions. Unfortunately, this rubbed people the wrong way. None of us are perfect, but none of us also want to admit that fact.

Despite someone coming up to us and offering constructive criticism, a lot of us interpret their intentions as snobby or condescending. But why can’t we take criticism well? Yes, I know it sucks being told something’s not good, but life is constantly a series of trial and error, and quite frankly, sometimes we need to know when we suck.

I think it starts with this mentality that anyone can do anything if they just believe in themselves. While sure, someone with no legs can run a marathon and a blind person can be an astronaut; most times no one wants to put out the extra effort to develop the skill. Just having an interest in something doesn’t mean you’ll be good at it.

And I’m not against pursuing something, but don’t show up on my doorstep expecting praise for your singing when you sound like a cat being drowned in acid.

There are two things:

One, we’re being coddled. Since birth, we’ve been expected to just grin and bear it when someone asks what you think of their whatever. I mean, why ask someone what they think if you’re just going to get offended by their comments anyway?

Now don’t think I’m advocating being mean for the sake of being mean, but if you have something you think could better their endeavor, then by all means say it. And if someone is giving you advice, at least pay attention and consider it.

Hey, I’ll admit I suck at things. I am beyond terrible at math and sports. And that’s the second thing, we need to realize to always be open for improvement. Even the smartest guy ever could use a tip on something in his life. They’re not personal attacks, just ways to make us the best we can be. In a way, it’s actually beneficial for you because your thing will be better, thus making you better.

We live in a society where, for lack of a better phrase, the sucky get suckier. People heckle judges like Simon Cowell for being too harsh, but I think some harshness is what people need. Not only in a constructive sense, but as a way of keeping people grounded and down to Earth.

It’s fine if you’re doing something as a hobby, but if you want to improve and be considered truly great, then you have to be open to constructive criticism. No one got to where they are today just listening to themselves. You don’t have to compromise yourself or your vision, just be open to new ideas.

I know it’s tough growing up with praise in high school, from your parents, and then coming to college and being surrounded by people who might be better at something than you are. But don’t think they’re out to get you. And don’t confuse criticism for condescension.