Sunday, April 08, 2007

Criticism, Critique, or Critical Acclaim

Some folks think they are being helpful when they are really critical. What's the difference? How can you weed them out and use the information not only in your personal life, but also in your work life?

Let's take a look at the definitions. Think of this as an adventure in discovering growth toward your dreams.

1. Criticism finds fault and points out faults. (This one is too narrow and often used abusively with demands for compliance. There are most likely no creative suggestions and you feel terrible after one of these encounters.)
2. Critique examines and discusses or reviews with the intent to encourage and improve. (Ah, very helpful. Useful information done professionally and with an intelligent, thoughtful process.)
3. Critical Acclaim means that after being examined, the object being examined is found to be excellent and worthy of praise. (Uh huh, our goal.)

Being a critic isn't a bad thing unless it isn't a job.

'Scuse me?

Food critics, movie critics, book critics...you get it. A job. But being a critic because of an eye for fault-finding, well, that's another thing entirely. Some people even love to combine these two things by making it their job to blather mean-spirited observations on you. Let's just say, they aren't very pleasant personalities to be around and usually aren't an expert in the area they are criticizing either.To be a critical personality doesn't help anyone. In fact, going around criticizing others only brings harm and negativity.

But putting a critical eye to the layout of a stores shelving system, reading a book and giving feedback, or exploring what has been done to make something better in the future is a very positive process. This kind of situation offers recognition for the areas you do well and suggestion for the areas that need improvement. Are you willing to allow it?

The crucial thing about giving a critique is to do it in a way that it inspires creativity and the desire to change for the better. Being willing to be critiqued is scary. There is no guarantee the other person will offer anything constructive. However, what would be different if you didn't accept the opportunity? What would you learn?

How do you know when it's good advice?

Sweet, well-meaning friends and relatives who aren't in your field (or shoes for that matter) just aren't qualified. When they give their thoughts, they are merely opinions. An opinion without facts, experience, or knowledge is simply small talk. Not to be believed, followed, or taken seriously. Do not base your failure or your success on anyone's personal opinions-especially your failure.

It's very important when seeking critique, in any area, that the person doing the work is qualified. If you are an owner of a paint store, you would bring in an expert in your companies field (like commercial paint or paint store organizing) not someone who might just like colors . Get lots of references from people who have been able to use the experts services. You need someone who has already succeeded in the field in order to show you how to succeed. This doesn't always mean financially either. For instance, there are many published authors who volunteer their time to assist newbie authors. Volunteer! Wow! There is a group of retired business men, S.C.O.R.E., that volunteer their time to mentor other businesses into success. Most of the time, the larger groups have a matching service to connect the mentor to the mentee.

Then, because the person is on the outside, they can use more objective viewpoints to see what we are often too close to recognize. The mentor has already done what you are trying to do. This is an amazing help. I've found myself wanting to make a change, but not being able to see how or where. It's at these points that I open myself up for constructive feedback. I have questions ready that need answers. I have goals in mind. A critiquer needs to understand your goal in order to direct you in the right path. Again, making a color a better color won't open a new store several towns or states away.

In fact, I think it's crucial to let the expert know your goals and questions. This way, they are pointing you toward dream. They'll see the bigger picture you are attempting to paint. But if all they think you are trying to do is make blue, um, bluer:-) then they may stop short of your real need of creating a paint chain store across the country.

So, if I may offer advice:-) Find a successful expert and then if possible, several more.

Why?

Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. One may make better paint giving you a quality product and creating a demand, one may be gifted in visionary tactics and point you toward stores in every state with the best timing, and another may be excellent at building employee morale to create the right environment. All of these experts will help you achieve steps into the future.

Now take a moment and consider if your goal is to have a giant paint store monopoly, which expert is unnecessary? The one who helps you create an amazing product, or the one who teaches you financial timing, or the one who teaches your employees to build customer faith and repeat business? You may even need more.

But the "expert" not to worry over? The one who liked that color blue and thinks that it is the only color you will ever need to carry for the rest of your life. Or the one who said you didn't have it in you to open and succeed in a paint store in the first place (of course, they work in banana production which gives them the expertise to advise you in the color yellow, don't 'cha know?)

When you ponder criticism, be sure that you only take to heart advice that will further you in the direction you desire to go. Even an expert can only suggest and that should be done with professionalism. You must still weigh those suggestions against your goals and decide for yourself if it is a valid opportunity for change.

How do you do that?

Next time I'll address: How do I figure out what to use and what not to use from a critique? But first, a book review for Brandilyn Collins

Thanks for visiting. Please comment and ask questions.

Angie
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