Mon | Jun 17, 2019

Glenford Smith | Older and wiser at work

Published:Wednesday | August 1, 2018 | 12:00 AM

I can identify with the article 'Dealing with constructive criticism' published on June 20, 2018. Thank you. I have an odd way of dealing with criticism from my supervisors. When I'm being criticised, my first instinct is to take it too much to heart. My thoughts spiral from 'He doesn't like my work on this project' to 'I'm a terrible person'. But the older I get, the more I realise how unproductive that thought process is. Rather than let my thoughts get out of control, I now try to focus on what needs to be fixed and remember that criticism is a good thing because it will improve my work.

- Michael


Thanks for your kind comments and for your question. I would like to applaud you on your insight about the unproductiveness of your former self and how you see criticism now as a good thing. The manner of discussing your change of mind is evidence of your maturity.

Being criticised feels like you are being attacked physically and makes you feel awful. That is whether you are being constructively criticised or destructively criticised.

It takes some getting used to being criti-cised, that is why your first instinct is to react with such thoughts.

Unfortunately, some people do not get to develop their criticism muscle, they never pause long enough to go through the plethora of conflicting thoughts and feelings. They never let the feeling flow through them until it subsides enough that their logical, rational mind gives them an alternate take on the issue.

I agree that reacting to the criticism in the way you've described is unproductive. But you see, you were impulsively reacting to what your mind interpreted as an attack. You automatically heard it as, "He's saying that my work is bad and below par and that I am a bad person." Although your thought is irrational, you believed it, and started to react with this in your mind.

The thing to do is to let the thoughts and feelings course through you. Feel it fully. Remember, all of this is happening inside of you. You are feeling angry, but it is you alone feeling this, within yourself. If you don't respond or react nobody will know, and nothing will happen - it will die down after a few minutes.

Then look into what you are being criticised for. Are there any merits?

You now have better control of your thinking than when you were younger. You can now see that criticism is an excellent thing for improving yourself in the workplace.

It is a similar process of teenagers acting up and being violent. It is similar to any adult when they feel attacked. That is why we need exercises in today's ever-busy world, to help us calm down and think before we act. Otherwise, we automatically, impulsively act out of a mind that is full of erroneous ideas and impressions.

By focusing on what needs fixing, we are becoming better workers and we are gaining mastery over ourselves. It's a pity that it is only when we get much older that we realise such things. Truly, it is said, 'Youth is wasted on the young'.

- Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of 'From Problems to Power' and co-author of 'Profile of Excellence'. Email