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Assuming All Criticisms Come From Good Intentions: A Path to Personal Growth
Hey, my name is Juntao. I am a developer, a YouTuber and an author. I help people write better code. In this SubStack, I share tips and tricks I've learned along the way, including best practices for writing clean code, techniques for effective refactoring, and strategies for implementing TDD in your projects.
I'll also share some of my favourite productivity tips for staying organized and efficient so that you can be your best developer.
In a world that increasingly values feedback loops and continuous improvement, dealing with criticism has become an art form. Whether you're a professional, a creator, or simply someone seeking personal growth, the way you handle constructive feedback can be a game-changer. In this essay, we'll explore why it's crucial to assume that all criticisms come from a place of good intention and how this mindset can significantly impact your personal and professional development.
You've just concluded a workshop, and the attendees are thanking you for your skilled facilitation and the valuable insights you've shared. Then, one participant, after expressing their appreciation, offers you a piece of advice: "You seemed a bit unprepared during the Q&A; perhaps you could improve that aspect."
Your mind starts racing with interpretations of this feedback. You could feel defeated, thinking, "I must have done a poor job during the Q&A. Now everyone knows I was unprepared." Alternatively, you might become defensive: "How dare they criticize me? Do they have any idea how many hours I've invested in preparing for this?"
But there's also a positive way to interpret the comment: "I appreciate this constructive criticism. I'll make an effort to collect questions for a follow-up blog post and use this experience to improve future workshops."
Why do we often focus on the negative or constructive aspects of feedback? It's likely because our brains are biologically programmed to pay heightened attention to negative stimuli. This sensitivity may stem from our evolutionary history as social creatures, where negative feedback had long-lasting implications for our standing within a community.
The Importance of Perception
How we perceive this feedback could be one of the most crucial aspects of our personal and professional development. Key factors include:
Self-Confidence: Differentiate between your confidence and your ego.
Mental Health: Safeguard your mental well-being by not tying your identity to how others perceive you.
Good Intentions: Always assume that the feedback you're receiving is aimed at your growth.
My Journey With Feedback
I used to view constructive criticism as performance metrics and took it personally if someone didn't like my style. This would sometimes lead to sadness or self-doubt.
However, I realized that if these people are biased or lack the ability to differentiate good from bad, their opinions could be flawed as well. This realization was liberating for me.
A Change in Approach
Ignoring the feedback isn't the solution either. Deep down, I always felt that their perceptions might be accurate. It wasn't until I decided to view all feedback as coming from a place of good intention that I found peace. These individuals genuinely want to see me grow, improve, and become better, regardless of their tone or how they express it. As the recipient, I have a responsibility to interpret it positively.
Taking Control of Your Reactions
While you can't control how people deliver their feedback, you have complete control over your own reactions. Drawing upon Alfred Adler's theory, we react in ways that are deeply ingrained from our formative years. Understanding this concept can be transformative, changing how we handle criticism and ultimately fostering personal growth.
Embracing criticism as an avenue for growth is easier said than done. But the mindset shift, inspired by Alfred Adler's theory, can make a world of difference in how we perceive and react to feedback. By assuming that all criticisms are well-intended, we not only preserve our mental well-being but also open doors for self-improvement and deeper insights. The key lies in your reaction, something you have complete control over, enabling you to transform the way you engage with the world around you.