We live in a crazy world.
A Hot Mess of a world to be more precise.
Donald Trump runs for president and Kanye saying he will do so for 2020. Not to mention Deez Nuts.
The Kardashians making headlines and Syrian refuges get tripped by evil reporters.
WTF is going on?
How did we get to this point and how do we get out?
Growing up thinking it’s ok to criticize others.
When I was younger, back in the day when I still lived in Mexico (I grew up in Mexico up until age 15), my cousins and I used to sit at the kitchen table at my maternal grandparent’s home. My uncles, having found a number of unsuspecting victims, would pick on everyone at the table for the sake of kicks and giggles. And so the entire kitchen was ablaze with lively laughter from all present.
Those were some of the fondest memories I have of my grandparents’ home and of my childhood surrounded by family.
The problem was that part of the fun was making fun of each other. My uncles, having had a lifetime of criticizing and fault-finding in one another for the sake of fun, saw nothing wrong with their behavior. The children, impressionable as we were and looking up to them as role models, followed suit.
Little did I know, people outside my immediate family circle don’t really like being criticized for the sake of laughter—or criticized (at all), period.
The problem is that it’s not just me who grew up thinking that judging and criticizing others is normal. Apparently, we’ve been doing it all wrong as a species. Just look at the mess we’re in.
I could be completely wrong, but I dare say that all of our problems come down to our lack of tolerance and compassion for one another.
How I noticed that I was criticizing others
I can still hear it in the back of my mind: a dear friend’s reproaching voice after a cruel joke I had just apparently made. “That’s rude!” she said raising her voice in a way that I had never seen her do before.
This short interaction marked the beginning of my realization that the way I spoke to others was affecting my relationships.
The second time I noticed a relationship had been affected was when I realized the girl I used to live with was mentally prepared to receive anything I said to her as criticism. It got so bad that we ended up splitting apart after living together for over 5 years. Despite her being someone I once considered best friend material, we still don’t talk to each other consistently.
But we all know third time is a charm.
Having made a comment I found inappropriate for a work environment, I took it upon myself to “protect” a co-worker from further scrutiny from other co-workers by letting her know that what she said was not cool. Of course she did not like my “constructive criticism,” and rightfully so.
When did I become like this?
The habit of fault-finding or criticizing others
Habits are defined as automatic behavior, a settled or regular tendency or practice.
The purpose of habits, according to behavioral economics, is to allow your pre-frontal cortex (aka the boss, the CEO of the brain, the little voice of reason inside your head) to conserve energy for important decisions. In a nutshell, your brain conserves energy for important decisions by creating habitual responses to the environment.
But habits are not limited to smoking a pack of cigarettes per day, the route you take to work, or your fashion choices. Habits also manifest in your way of thinking, your body posture, and even what you say and how you say it.
As I said in the last blog post, the problem with habits is that because they run on auto-pilot we don’t exercise active choice over what we do, say or think.
When you are in the habit of finding fault in what other people say or do, you will inevitably find yourself turning people off. The problem is that more often than not, you probably don’t even notice you are criticizing others because the behavior is automatic.
Imagine me making fun of people or criticizing people because that’s what I learned was normal growing up. Not cool, right?
I also told you last week that I am reading Dale Carniege’s How to Make Friends and Influence People, a book I recommend if you want to take your relationships to a whole new level. The book is simple and full of straightforward wisdom and actionable advice. So I strongly recommend you read and use it as a practical guide on how to interact with others.
So if you have ever found yourself wondering why people do what they do and not agreeing with it, brace yourself, criticizing others is probably one of the worst things you can do, even if you feel entitled to think that you are right. Beware of criticizing others as a way to see the world.
To make matters worse, understand that one of the reasons we judge and criticize others is because we are insecure about ourselves.
Marinate on that for a minute or two.
How criticizing others is affecting your relationships
Think of the last time you did something really well. You were super proud of yourself for your results and dominated the task. Then in comes Mrs. Hater to tell you “well, you could’ve done this better.”
And while you may make it a point to be open to constructive criticism, sometimes “constructive” criticism is still criticism and criticism hurts. Period. Such are the disadvantages of constructive criticism that in the end it is still criticism.
I am not saying “don’t tell people how to do things better.” Rather, I am advocating for taking a new perspective for “constructive criticism” based on what I have learned and what I have read in Dale Carniege’s book. I am advocating for how to stop criticizing others for the good of us all.
1. When we criticize others we are measuring them by our own standards, which they may or may not agree with.
Let’s be real here. I would love to be able to ask that everybody do exactly as I do and think exactly as I do. If that were the case Polar Bears wouldn’t be in danger of extinction, poverty wouldn’t be a thing, and siesta time would be mandatory worldwide (just to name a few). But to expect everybody to think as I do is unrealistic.
To be a human is to be a collection of different experiences and reactions to said experiences. Most of us remain victims to our circumstances and cultural conditioning. And as much as I would like to shake you and smack you behind the head to wake you up from your cultural-induced slumber, I simply can’t force you to see things the way I see them. The same goes for you.
To criticize others is to negate the life experience of another.
2. When we criticize others we are putting down what they believe to have been their best.
Yes, I agree. Others could always do things better. And if we have the experience that they lack, why would we judge them based on what has taken us years to accomplish?
Even if they weren’t really trying to begin with, can I judge the motives that they have for not trying?
3. People have their own logic to justify their actions, however wicked it is.
Listen. We humans like to think we’re creatures of logic. And logic is a thing. But what happens when scientists are finding that emotions affect and influence logic more than we give them credit for?
Earlier I mentioned that criticizing others is a symptom of how we feel about ourselves. Oftentimes, you may even find that you criticize others to make you feel better.
Can you see the connection between your own self-esteem and how it influences your logic?
The mind is a tricky thing like that.
Epic challenge for the week: Instead of criticizing others, try to understand them.
- We live in a crazy world and our lack of tolerance and compassion for one another is partly to blame.
- We live in a culture that encourages criticism and judgement of others as normal.
- I realized I was criticizing others once my relationships started suffering.
- The habit of fault-finding and criticizing others could be affecting your relationships too.
- We criticize and judge others because we criticize and judge ourselves.
- Instead of criticizing others try to understand them.
I am going to be writing A LOT more about relationships and improving my relationships because that’s one of the things I am currently focused on in my life. To accomplish my goal of being a better friend and person altogether, I am reading “How To Make Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carniege (a book I strongly recommend as it has changed the way I interact with people).
If you have liked what you read, consider sharing this content so that others can benefit from it too.
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