Being bullied or overly-criticized can cause damage in life. However, constructive criticism can actually help you grow and become stronger.
I’ve been bullied before, most during my childhood in primary school. I was criticized daily and called names. I did suffer damage from this treatment, some that still linger and cause me problems today. I have also dealt with harsh criticism as an adult as well, from both intimate partners and family members. I do know the difference between being purposely hurt and enduring constructive criticism because I learned the hard way.
The difference between damage and growth
Here are the basics: You can grow or you can wither from the words you receive from others. I was forced to grow up fast because I had few friends that didn’t bully me. I learned that the same statements or words can either work in negative or positive ways, it all depends on how they are used.
That’s the simple truth of it. Constructive criticism and harsh criticism are two sides of a coin…then there’s the extreme of bullying. There are, however, ways to tell the difference.
Criticism vs Constructive criticism
Straight out criticism is designed to show someone their downfall. Sometimes, these criticisms are even designed to be outright hurtful. Fortunately, we do learn from criticism, but our self-esteem takes a hit as well.
This can cause mental and emotional damage at the time of critique and later on as well. Family, even though they are supposed to be loving, can be the worst users of harsh criticism, and this is where the most long-lasting damage comes.
On the other hand, constructive criticism is designed to help someone to do better. Usually, this type of criticism is spoken in a nice manner without harsh words and statements. Teachers often offer constructive criticism in order to help their students make better grades and perform more efficiently. The same can be said of employers and even some family and friends.
Criticism vs bullying
Since criticism can be harsh, it stands to reason that bullying can be even worse. The main reason why bullying is so bad is that it can consist of a constant flow of criticism with no intention of being helpful. In fact, the sole purpose of bullying behavior is to bring another person down. Bullying can be used in a crafty manner as well.
Some children and even adults will resort to what they call, “teasing”. While some of this behavior is harmless and fun, it can lead to severe bullying behavior. “Teasing” is okay when both parties are laughing, but it becomes bullying when one person starts to feel hurt.
Many times, people bully others because they themselves suffer from a low self-esteem, and they wish for someone else to feel the pressure and pain of this ailment. Bullying is one of the most dangerous acts in our society today and it takes its toll on the mind and body. While harsh criticism is harmful, it doesn’t hold a candle to outright bullying behavior, which can even lead to suicide.
Utilizing constructive criticism
The best part about criticism is being able to utilize it for good. Yes, you can use critical judgment to improve your life and the lives of others. However, you must understand how constructive criticism works and how it fails. Here are a few pointers.
1. Focus on the positive
Before you tell someone about their faults, make sure you emphasize their strengths first. Placing focus on the strengths of others will help them accept their faults and recognize where things can be improved. This also ensures their confidence level is high as well.
2. Talk about the problem, not the person
When you do talk about the things that should be changed, don’t put the focus on the person. For instance, if your friend is being selfish, don’t say, “You’re selfish”. Try saying, “It would be nice if we did some things for someone else. It feels good to help others.”
Do you see what I mean? The problem is, there isn’t enough giving in the world. Being selfless helps that aspect and so focusing on how to solve the problem instead of criticizing faults works so much better. Over time, people will get better at giving.
3. Only talk about what can be improved
Never criticize someone for something they cannot change. This will only make them feel worse. Instead, only focus on things that you can change, and especially things you can work on together. For the things that cannot be changed, let them be for now. A resolution may surface in the future.
4. If you criticize, then help
Never judge someone unless you’re willing to help them change. Criticizing someone and then walking away makes them feel helpless. In an ongoing situation, it’s actually a form of bullying. If you make any critical judgments, always be willing to stick around and help find solutions to make things better. It’s the honorable thing to do.
Understanding the differences
Before you criticize someone, make sure you understand the differences between bullying, criticism, and constructive criticism. It’s possible that you’re making someone you love feel bad about themselves, and this can be avoided.
It’s also possible that you’re missing opportunities to help someone grow and become a better person. Only through understanding the differences will you be able to help them, so let’s get started.