Not to Criticize, But…

Criticism can be stickier than flypaper…

Last week, I received survey responses from a keynote presentation I gave for a mid-size HR group. For years, I’ve taught others this simple mantra: FEEDBACK IS YOUR FRIEND. So it was in that spirit that I clicked on the link to sit and savor the opinions from my meeting participants.

Rate the following statement–




Do you know what this means? I had 127 very smart people in the audience, many of whom, as I seem to recall, possessing movie star good looks, too. These folks know good stuff when they see it, folks with impeccable taste, who likely raise fine, responsible children who will lead the next generation with distinction. These people, the ones who STRONGLY AGREE, they are the reason I get out of bed each morning. God bless you!


How odd. Twelve individuals heard me deliver what 127 of the smartest people I know STRONGLY AGREED was an excellent presentation, and yet the full magnitude of my awesomeness must have gone—-POOF—right over their heads. Well, at least they AGREED.


At some point, you just have to sing:

If you’re awesome, and you know it clap your hands (CLAP! CLAP!). If you’re awesome, and you know it clap your hands (CLAP! CLAP)…


If you’re awesome, and you know it then your survey scores will show it! If you’re awesome, and you know it…


What?! You’ve got to be &*%^@#$ me!

Why Must the Voices in Our Heads Be Negative?

Sometimes, praise and positive feedback bounce right off us. I think most of us figure that people are generally kind and gentle, so they’ll say things like “You look really nice today” even when you look like death warmed over. And after you hear a keynote speaker, what are you going to say afterwards? “Wow. I feel dumber for having listened to you“?

But when it comes to criticism, most of us hold on to it with our entire being, like a Yorkie on a chew toy.  Research indicates that Americans in particular are much more likely to believe criticism than praise.

Fighting Back!

As an author, I’m “out there.” Solicited or not, anyone can go to Amazon, GoodReads, or other sites and lay some serious love or hate down upon my books and, by direct association, me. As a speaker, nearly every group polls its audience about my presentation, and like it or not, I get a lot a feedback. I’m not saying that negative feedback doesn’t get me down, but I’ve gotten enough of it to have learned a few things. And I’m going to share some concrete tips with you…in my next post.

For now, though, I’d like you to ask yourself if any of these responses to criticism sound like you:

1. You get defensive, angry, embarrassed, or broken.

2. You take it on the chin, and immediately set out to improve.

3. You try to prove that you’re right, and the other person is wrong.

4. You avoid the person who criticized you.

5. You try to find people who agree with your point of view.

6. You find flaws in your critic,–character flaws, spelling errors, a bad comb-over—anything that discredits the critic or the critic’s words.

7. You dismiss the criticism.

8. You carry the criticism around with you like a bad smell stuck in the treads of your shoe.

Well, did you see yourself?

I hate to add more criticism, but if you answered YES to any of those questions, you should know that NONE OF THOSE RESPONSES ARE HEALTHY, CONSTRUCTIVE, OR HELPFUL.

Next Post: FINDING THE TRUTH IN CRITICISM. How can you respond to criticism so that it makes you better, not bitter…?

0 Comments Add yours

  1. Gary Turner says:

    Let me start by saying, “You are an excellent presenter!” I emphasized with your feelings here. Several times in my 20+ years of doing this, I’ve had similar things happen. I remember vividly one such time where 14 people evaluated my session very highly, but the 15th person panned it. She had been vocal during the session and challenged many things that were presented. I think the 3rd reason “try to prove you’re right” applied in this situation. Thanks for sharing this!!

    1. scottcarbonara says:

      Thanks Gary. We in positions where we frequently feel like we have “opened our kimonas” have to guard against blindly accepting the criticism from those who hide “behind the curtain”! Thanks for your thoughts.

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