The Impact of Criticism



impact of criticism

Criticism is a part of life. People criticize us, we criticize them and others. We use it as a defense mechanism, we use it to exude our power and control or sometimes simply as a conversation starter to explore what others are thinking and if they feel the same. Do we always realize the impact that it has? We know it when to comes to us but what happens when we push it away from us? Do we ever think about the person we are criticizing or are we so focused on ourselves that just do not think about it.

The Impact of Criticism

Can we even measure the impact of criticism? It would be different for everyone as what would have an affect upon you might not be the same for me. Plus, we do not always see it in people but yet we know that it is felt. We see frequently when people lash out against someone for a blog post that has an opinion that is inconsistent with what the reader perceived as image they created of the author. People also criticize when they feel threatened or when we are doing something that they thought they should be doing. There are a myriad of reasons why people criticize but the one common denominator is always that the criticism sets out to elicit some sort of reaction. But how can we determine the reaction they are seeking? Are they just trying to get our attention? Are they trying to have us second guess ourselves or is it even deeper where they are trying to hurt us to make themselves feel better?

Why do People Criticize?

People criticize for a multitude of reasons but mainly we see when they feel powerless, inferior, challenged, insecure and as their insecurities get the better of them, they resort to demeaning and degrading us to build their self esteem. If someone is deemed better than us when we perceived us to be equal, we start to really focus on them and find things to pick them apart over. For them, a weakness and an insecurity has been exposed. Women call others sluts or fat as attacking a physical attribute has an impact. Men tend to attack the mind as the physical attributes are trivial and they are above that. We see more men going on the attack with name calling. Stupid, ignorant, pigheaded, insignificant. These words in and of themselves show their inhibitions. The fear or the threatening feeling is so deep within them that they lash out and the fear is channeled into anger. The anger is unfounded as many times it stems from dealing with their own shortfalls. When we do not react in the way in which they desired us to, the anger and rage continues.

Many criticize to elicit a response or gain some attention within the community or to rattle those they are criticizing to take them off course. The underlying problem is that the fear of not being able get the attention, result or sometimes simply the answer they expected takes over and they become angry or jealous all because they are feeling a lack of control. They want the attention of those that we are criticizing, they want them to react to as when they do in many situations, they have achieved what we set out to do, get their attention! Are we really just attention whores in disguise?

Do We Have A Right to Complain?

Complaining is not always criticizing. Complaints are an eye opener as we are not always aware that we have not met or exceeded the expectations. Complaints help us to improve. Should we consider it a right to complain or more that we have the ability to do so? If we are promised a delivery within 2 days and on day 3 we are unable to reach anyone, we are going to complain. We are waiting for something promised and when that promise is not met, we want answers. When we do not get answers we complain, well the majority of us. There are those that seem to complain about everything.  Twitter goes over capacity, we complain. Facebook is down, we complain on Twitter. Is this complaining though? We are voicing our discontent but not to Twitter or Facebook directly. We are reaching out to others who share the same sentiment. We do not like to be alone in our feelings when technology fails.

In this digital age, companies are still trying to wrap their arms around the customer service touchpoints that are available. We are able to share a complaint with anyone that will listen across the social networks and that includes the brand we are complaining about and also competitors.

Complaining as Telling the Truth

Isn’t a part of complaining telling the truth? Of course it is but at what price? We are free to speak our mind but yet where are the parameters? Does there need to be parameters (this is not getting into the legalities of freedom of speech or slander or anything of the like) where we are not publicly airing the dirty laundry ? I think so as when we are complaining we have to think about the intent of the complaint. Is the intent to rid ourselves of it or make it better? Making it better moves to constructive criticism whereas complaining to complain or rid ourselves is just a means of expressing some frustrations and the intent is just to have our voice heard to anyone that listens but no real action is taken.

Complaints as an Action

Complaining as an action is taking the time to explain to the person or brand why we are dissatisfied. This is the constructive criticism that is helpful to a person and a brand. It is not a rant or a filled with hateful words or ramblings that tries to attract attention. Constructive criticism is explaining how the expectations were not met. We all set expectations of others that through either personal or business branding, they sold us on. We believed and when they are not living up to that, we become uncomfortable and voice the uncomfortable or uneasy feeling through a complaint. Well, at least it should start as a complaint.

Complaining is a constant in our lives. We complain, people around us complain and complaints do sometimes get the desired results of change. Criticism on the other hand does not. Someone who is constantly criticizing us or others, falls on deaf ears after a while. We roll our eyes or shake our head as they go on an on. This is not productive but sometimes emotionally it fulfills a need and gets us to move away from fear or the feeling of losing control. We are not going to like everyone we come into contact with, or everything that our friends do but when we criticize we are showing our own inhibitions. This is not to say that we should never criticize or complain but we have to look at ourselves and see what our intent is. Why would we go on the attack of someone? What do we want to accomplish? Isn’t sometimes a complaint better than a criticism to get the desired result?

There are days we have a whole lot to complain about but the stronger resist. Our words are a gift to us and those around us.


photo credit: gideon_wright

  • There might be different ways to criticize. You pointed very well why people tend to criticize, when they have an inner movement that they don’t deal with directly (like being frustrated by something: instead of calming down the level of frustration, they want to lash out on any perceived responsible party for their misery…).

    There are also the case when someone need to criticize in order to allow growth or improvement: then the criticism needs to come from a place of love, of genuine concern, and authentic belief in the potential of the person who is criticized. And most of all, the criticism must address a behavior, never a being.

    That’s how I tend to see criticism myself.

    Thanks very much for this very thought provoking post.

  • For me, it’s the ‘silent treatment’ that’s the worse. Someone doesn’t say anything but you know they’re not pleased.

    • I have done the silent treatment and have had it done to me. It can be worse than the criticism as with the criticism you know why they are upset but with silent, it leaves you guessing.

  • Were you in my back pocket today or something? I’m DOWN today and earlier didn’t even try not to come off as snarky in a group I’m part of. I’m on my way to delete my post and there’s your article. Pfftt.
    Thanks, girl!
    M. Hughes

    • Glad to be of help. I was mulling this around in my head for awhile so I am glad that I was able to get it done and have it be useful.

    • Glad to be of help. I was mulling this around in my head for awhile so I am glad that I was able to get it done and have it be useful.