However, there is a such thing as destructive criticism -- this is criticism that's meant to either break you down or make you into something that you are not. This is the type of criticism that you hear all the time.
When I was training to be a BodyPump instructor at the gym, I was prepared to receive criticism from those who observed me -- and I welcomed it. My concern was what could I do to be better. For the most part, I received constructive criticism: "you need to speak more clearly in the mic," "your form was a little off," "you made a mistake in the choreography," "learn how to better communicate your cues." See, these are important things that will make me a better instructor.
Then, there was that rare destructive criticism: "you are a bit too dancey." While the person didn't mean any harm by saying this, this kind of criticism had NOTHING to do with my ability to lead a class. This kind of criticism addressed my personality, not my skill -- and it's the SKILL that will make me a good or bad instructor, not so much my personality.
When people criticize you, they usually attack who you are as a person, don't they? When they criticize you, they talk more about your personality and less about what could actually make you better at what you do. This is destructive criticism and this kind of criticism should be ignored.
Remember that what makes all of us different is our personality. When you attack someone's personality, you are destroying who they are. When someone attacks your personality, they are tearing you down so you could be something that you are not.
Back in college, I wrote a history research paper, and the professor didn't like my style. He called several of us students into his office to evaluate our papers and he used another student's paper as a guideline for what he was looking for. He criticized one student's paper because she was being creative. "And I hate that!" he said. When he got to my paper, he said, "And yours was just weird! It was like you were having a conversation with me." The student who wrote the paper that he did like was dry, point-blank, and void of any personality. This was the kind of paper he liked, and he made copies of this paper to give to us.
I was a bit angry. I mean, I have given him all the information he wanted. He didn't judge any of us based on the information, but based on our presentation of this information. In other words, he wasn't trying to make me into a better writer or researcher: he was trying to make me less of who I was so I could look like somebody else.
By the way, I did enjoy this professor's class and he was a cool guy -- so no ill feelings about him.
Another time when I was leading songs in a church in Texas, one woman approached me and said, "I think you made service tonight to be about Aiyo." And then she apologetically asked, as if seeking my approval for her critique, "Is that all right?" I still don't know what I did wrong! I led singing, using the gifts God gave me, and had fun with it, but someone interpreted my actions as trying to put the spotlight on me.
You know, there have been plenty of times when my personality was attacked. If I preach, I preach with humor. If I make a class presentation, I do it with enthusiasm. If I write, I want to inspire -- even though my e-mails are quite long. Just ask my wife! She still has a love letter from me while we were dating that she hasn't finished reading yet!
I bet plenty of you have had your personality attacked, and you were led to believe that you were receiving constructive criticism. Let me tell you that the only constructive criticism is the criticism that makes you MORE of who you are. Let's improve your skills so you could better show the world who you are!
Now, let's be honest: some of us have criticized other people's personalities. Someone is too silly, too serious, too relaxed, too tensed, too zealous, too passive. And yes, we have attempted to change that person to be more like us.
When teaching ZUMBA, I get silly! Other instructors may be a bit more serious. Others may be a bit childish. Others may be a bit militant. I have to discipline myself to not judge an instructor because he or she is not like me. That instructor has a style that appeals to one set of people, and would repulse another set of people. In the same way, I have a personality that appeals to some and repulse others. My job is not to appeal to everybody, especially since there is a ZUMBA instructor for everybody.
So, whenever I ask for feedback for my class, I am always SPECIFIC in what I'm asking for. I don't care for any criticism on my personality. I am who I am, and if someone has a problem with it, then they could find another instructor. Same thing for you: if somebody has a problem with who you are, they could look elsewhere for someone else.
One time, I told a fitness instructor that when she is asking for feedback, don't be general about it. Don't ask, "What didn't you like" or "What could I do to make class better?" No, be specific so that your personality is not attacked.
Now, don't confused "etiquette ignorance" with "bad personality." A funny person who doesn't know when to keep his or her mouth closed has etiquette ignorance. There is nothing wrong with this person's personality. This person needs to work on his or her social skills. Or a calm, reserved person who is just extremely shy needs work on social skills -- being too shy could be a problem in your life. There is nothing wrong with being reserved, which is your personality.
Keep in mind that everybody is different because of personalities. NEVER attack someone's character: it is what they were wired to be. NEVER let anyone attack your character. If your skills aren't put into questioning, then there is nothing worth criticizing.
Sometimes, we get too happy to be critical. We take criticism on a whole new level. Criticism should be kept relevant, but we don't keep it relevant. We criticize anything that we don't like, and if we keep criticizing in that manner, then we would find it difficult to find anything that pleases us.
Appreciate the diversity in all personalities. Don't criticize the person. Criticize the action. Don't fault someone because he's too laid back. Criticize him because he procrastinated on a project. Don't fault someone because she's too serious. Criticize her because she makes other people feel as if they aren't important.
When someone criticizes you, filter their critiques of your actions from their critiques of your personality. If someone doesn't want you because of who you are, don't get mad. Just keep moving. If someone criticizes your skills, don't take that as an attack on your character. Just improve your skills so you could better show everybody who you are.