When someone gives you feedback or criticism, their words may be accurate, and perhaps you should listen. But use discernment. Before you take any feedback and criticism to heart, understand that everything you hear comes from a position of bias:
bahy-uhs (noun): a particular tendency or inclination, especially one that prevents unprejudiced consideration of a question; prejudice.
“I don’t like your coat. It’s ugly!” a child tells another on the playground. It’s ugly based on what standard?
“Pecan pie is too sweet. I don’t know how anyone can eat it!” a relative says of the dessert you made for Thanksgiving dinner. Too sweet according to whose taste buds?
“This is a terrible time to go into business for yourself. If you have a job with benefits, you should just stay until things get better!” a helpful friend suggests when you share your desire to work for yourself doing something you love doing. A terrible time to go into business based on what? The economy? A particular business model? Or the person’s own perceptions of how terrible it would be to take a risk?
Next time you hear feedback or criticism, ask yourself the following questions before you have their words tattooed on your chest:
- Is the source a reliable expert who’s willingly sharing expertise…or just another opinion? Experts like doctors, lawyers, and consultants charge you money…and usually provide you with some sort of guarantee or assurance. But most of what you hear falls in the category of opinion not worth hearing.
- Is the consequence for ignoring this person grave (i.e., a poor performance appraisal, shame, lost opportunity, death)? If a stranger flagged down my car on the highway and warned me that “A few prisoners escaped from a work crew. They are considered armed and dangerous”, that person has my attention. I wouldn’t turn my car around, but I wouldn’t pick up a hitchhiker carrying an axe! But let’s consider that situation rare. Most of the time, the consequence for ignoring the opinions of others is minor and inconsequential.
- Did you seek this person’s opinion? Unsolicited feedback and criticism should be taken as seriously as a door-to-door salesperson selling you cleaning products or religion. Unless you’ve been in the market for house cleaning supplies or a new cult to join, you can listen politely for a few moments before you decline investing more of your time.
Opinions reveal what is important to the other person, not necessarily to you. So reserve the right to listen, nod, and go on about your business without changing your direction.