When to learn from or ignore criticism...ask these 5 questions

How do you know when you should listen to criticism and when you should ignore it?  From my own personal experience, I know there are times when I need to really lean in when it comes my way, but there are also times when it can actually be destructive.  So how do you know when to appreciate it and treat it as a gift for growth and when to ignore it?

In his book, Put Your Dream to the Test, John Maxwell provides a list of 5 statements that serve as a great filter that you may find helpful to use the next time you hear from a critic.  I am going to phrase them in the form of 5 questions.

  1. Are you unconditionally loved by the person who criticizes you?  This is the person who says, "I love you if you do.  I love you if you don't."  At the beginning of each week I try to set aside time to outline and prioritize my wildly important actions for the week.  I create these on a simple Google spreadsheet and then I share them with one of my best friends from Michigan.  I send them to Doug because he is a great accountability partner.  I know that he is one of the few people in my life who loves me and is totally for me.  He is also one of those rare people who will tell me the kind truth when I need to hear it and ask me the hard questions that few others will.
  2. Is the criticism tainted by their own personal agenda?  Most of us can sense this when it is happening and nothing undermines trust faster.
  3. Is this person naturally critical of everything?   It's one thing to receive criticism from someone who looks at life through the lens of the glass being half-empty.  It's quite another to receive substantive critical feedback from someone who is typically positive and supportive.  That should give us pause to stop, reflect, and honestly process the feedback.
  4. Will this person continue to support you on a personal level even if you choose not to listen to the criticism?  This is a sign of a really mature person.  They understand that they are responsible TO you, (telling you the truth as they see it), but they are not responsible FOR you (attempting to manipulate your response to their criticism).
  5. Does this person have knowledge and success in the area of the criticism?  They've been there.  They've done it.  They've done it well and they want to pass it on to you.

I hope this helps.