HTWFAIP: Criticism

HTWFAIP: Criticism

Over the next month I’m going to be analyzing Dale Carnegie’s best-seller How To Win Friends and Influence People.

By synthesizing and sharing what I read I hope to leave you with some new and interesting ideas (as well as reinforce ideas that I have read about 😀).

Let’s get to it:

To open his book, rather than tell you what TO DO to make people like you, Carnegie tells you the one thing you must NOT DO if people are to enjoy being around you:

Criticism - the art of making people defensive. Here’s why it never works:

People are never wrong - according to themselves

No person wants to be told they’ve done a poor job, that their thinking is flawed, or that they’ve done wrong - and to be honest, no person genuinely believes any of those things about themselves.

Take Al Capone for example. He regarded himself a public benefactor - not a mobster, a gangster, or an antisocialist - but a bringer of pleasure to others. He thought himself a misunderstood hero, not a terrifying villain.

Do you think any amount of criticism would have convinced him otherwise or made him change his ways? Of course not; it didn’t!

Do you think people whose mishaps are much less heinous than his will be any different? NO!

Think about it this way: if people genuinely believed their behavior wasn’t justified or was clearly wrong and terrible, do you really think they’d still act this way?

This leads me to the next point...

People’s behavior isn’t that crazy when you consider the circumstances

Another reason not to criticize is because all behavior is explainable. Whether by past experiences, past information someone has been given, or just by the way someone sees the world, all actions have some justification to them.

It’s important to understand 2 things, which are clear when you understand the last sentence:

1) Any of us likely would’ve acted or said the exact same thing given the same life circumstances and experiences.

2) Since the reaction to criticism is justification, you’re just asking for them to explain why their mistake is actually not a mistake, rather than to learn from it.

Criticism does not give you the result you seek - it puts the receiver on defense: defense from you and in defense of their perceived mistake. And the more you force someone to justify themselves the more they will convice themselves that YOU are the problem and they are, in fact, right and justified. That’s no way to connect with others. Why attack someone’s pride, sense of importance, and make people resent you?

If this all sounds like bolgna and you think everyone deserves a good chewing out at some point, I want you to consider this question:

Have you ever been harshly criticized and thought ‘Now that was a reasonable reaction to what I did or said. I was clearly wrong’.

If the answer is no and you don’t apppreciate being treated that way, why would anyone else?

Final Word

Most of all, the reason not to judge someone harshly is because God himself says he won’t judge a man’s entire life until his dying days - what gives us the right to judge someone harshly because of a single moment?

The opposite of criticism is seeking for understanding. Asking ‘Why does someone act this way?’ is a much more productive thought than jumping right into all of the reasons someone is horrible. It allows us to see people as they are, not as we perceive them to be. Carnegie says ‘Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain - and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to understand and forgive.’ It is HARD and it takes CHARACTER to seek to understand someone and forgive them.

My final question for you: Are you a fool?

Want to talk more? Questions, ideas, reflections you want to share?

I want to hear from you. Email me here.







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