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angela anima-korang

Graduate Research Assistant, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

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How do we deal with the culture of criticism, especially at schools, work, and in our private lives?

When do we learn that in most cases, what others think of us is just a reflection on their character and not on us? When do we accept that we are who we are and that our self-esteem is based on how we see ourselves, and should not be on how others see us?

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    Mar 28 2013: Hello Angela,
    It looks like you are relatively new to TED conversations, so WELCOME!

    "When do we learn that in most cases, what others think of us is just a reflection on their character and not on us?"

    I believe we learn this when we are ready to learn it. When we have learned about ourself, with exploration of the life adventure, we can take in information and respectfully, insightfully, evaluate the information and how it relates to us, or to the person providing the information.

    If I have been told most of my life, by many people that I am kind and caring, for example, and all of a sudden, someone is telling me that I am evil, and the representative of the devil (which has happened), I listen, evaluate the information and the source, and with the information and feedback I have about myself, realize that the person is projecting.

    It is EXACTLY as you say....what people think of us, and express about us is more a reflection of themselves, rather than accurate information about us. When we KNOW ourselves well, we can sift through information, to determine what is valuable criticism and feedback, and what is not. We are all reflections of each other. If we are clear in ourselves, we reflect to others with clarity. If we are NOT clear with ourselves, the reflection we provide to others is distorted.
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      Mar 28 2013: Very good point, Colleen. People do often compare new pieces of feedback with a steam of feedback they have received over time as one way of understanding the meaning of the new piece of feedback. Those who have had lots of positive and supportive reaction from people over time often are better able to understand and accomodate new feedback that is less positive.
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      Apr 1 2013: Thanks, Colleen! You certainly have made it a lot easier to understand. I think that a lot of us face this problem and I wanted to know what other people think about the issue and how they deal with it. Your input is invaluable. Thanks for the welcome! I am new but I plan to stay a bit longer. I hope to interact more with you!
      Best wishes!
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    Mar 28 2013: What is your view, Angela, on the constructive feedback you get on your work as a graduate research assistant? Do you think of your professor's identifying areas you can improve as part of a culture of criticism or as part of mentoring a rising scholar?

    People who feel good about the way they approach their work- their diligence and integrity- should be able to accept and learn from feedback that identifies areas that need more attention, revision, or correction.

    Effective feedback should include both identification of strengths of the work and areas for development.
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      Mar 28 2013: I very much agree with you, Fritzie. I certainly pay a lot of attention to what my professors and supervisors say. Countless times, they have helped me in more ways than not. I know I have improved myself based on feedback I have gotten from them.
      However, there is a difference between constructive and destructive criticism. My concern is people who pay more attention to what others say about them or others judgments, not just at work or in school, but in their personal lives. How does this inner turmoil to balance our view and acceptance of us and people's opinion of us, play out?
  • Mar 27 2013: We are members of a community; as much as we have to be in harmony with ourselves as individuals, we also have to be in harmony with our community to a certain degree. So it is important to be sensitive to the feelings of others and to be able to differentiate between constructive criticism and unfair criticism.
    Pride can blind one to one's fault, it can blind us to the needs and expectations of others, and to ethical pitfalls that lies on one's path. Imagine if despots and dictators believe (I think they do) that the criticism of their acts is a reflection of the critics' perception. And imagine if those depraved lot have good self esteem.

    Personal and societal checks and balances are important in order for us to get a true picture of ourselves.
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      Mar 28 2013: wow, thanks, Feyisayo. You make a very interesting point. Of course, I do hope that dictators know that what people say about them is actually the truth. That realization can do us all a lot of good.
      Per your name, I am thinking you are from Nigeria. (I am from Ghana). What do you think about the the common notion that the adult is always right? Does that help the youth? I believe it does (most times), only because they have a lot more experience than we young folks but I'm curious as to what you make of that.
      • Mar 28 2013: Angela, I'm from Nigeria. Thanks for the interesting conversation. I dont think adults are always right, but they do have a lot to teach the younger folks based on their wealth of experience.
        An adult that would be a successful teacher and mentor is a kind that would be open to fresh ideas and would be humble enough to know when to listen and learn.
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          Mar 28 2013: Exactly! I do not think that wisdom comes with age naturally. It depends on the person, although generally, experiences give us more of a better outlook on life. Hence, adults will have more to say on more topics. Thanks, Feyi!
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          Mar 28 2013: Where I live there is not a message or expectation that adults are always right. In fact, my generation, the parents, typically, of twenty-somethings, came of age when the mantra among young people was that one couldn't trust people over thirty.

          So at this point blind respect for authority is not so common.
  • Mar 31 2013: Always stay open to constructive critiques. They are invaluable.
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      Apr 1 2013: Thanks, Nathan! I do believe they are. For me, they help me acknowledge aspects of my professional (and social) life that I need to work on.
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    Mar 28 2013: I view that people should learn and do what they are passionate about, not for the sake of "gaining a reputation" and not wanting to be criticize. But because they do it for the "sake of knowledge" and because they love it. (So in that sense the criticism wouldn't matter to you!)
    This is one way to deal with the world of criticism.
    Another way to make criticism more constructive and have people gain the ability to realize when some criticism is just necessary and when sometimes it isn't, and let everybody gain the ability to admit they are wrong. (When they are!)
    I hope this helps. :)
    I mean a quick anecdotal example : with some of my idea's I have just had people tell me that I'm an irrational idiot, with no real rational or explanation to that or why I am. (Usually turns out their explanation usually goes like this : Why am I wrong? Because I just am, which isn't very helpful at all!) While do I accept this non-constructive criticism? No, I just ask them calmly where my logic went faulty. And If I was wrong, I just admit I was wrong. Instead of getting extremely angry with this person who just called me an idiot.
  • Mar 28 2013: Yes,that's exactly I learnt in my life these years:don't live a life what others talk about but truely yourself.Keep thinking is a good habit to maintain it
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      Mar 28 2013: I definitely agree, ZX. I just came to a "re-realization" (if I may so so) of this not quite long ago. It had to do with how I thought others saw me, then I came across a file that had been posted and had me in it. It reaffirmed my convictions that while others opinion of me counted, what I thought of myself was central to my personal growth. Thanks for sharing in this!
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    Mar 27 2013: angela, are your statements really true? Because don't we feel good when we have a friend, someone we think likes us. If our feeling about ourselves was only based on what we thought of ourselves, it wouldn't matter whether we had a friend or not, would it?
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      Mar 28 2013: Very well said, Greg. We do need others. After all, a man is not an island made entirely of himself, right? The question is, should our friend's opinion mean more to us than our own?
  • Mar 27 2013: This is an interesting topic. How do we balance constructive feedback/criticism that will help us to grow professionally and personally versus too frequent and harsh criticism that affects our self-esteem?

    I think there is a growing pressure in all levels of our society to perform better which can become daunting at some point. I think we need to keep in mind to have a healthy balance between being ourselves and doing our best while trying to improve ourselves and be better at what we do. It is good to have healthy work-life balance and take enough time off to recharge from today's push for performance.

    I think we need to surround ourselves with positive people that like who we are while learning to take well-meant feedback with a positive attitude? This is not easy for anyone.
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      Mar 28 2013: I also think that positive people, positive thoughts, growth from criticisms (both destructive and constructive) all help foster a well-balanced personality. I also think that it is very important to be able to decipher between people who give us good feedback and others who just are not looking out for us as much as we think they are. All in all, I think you make a great point when you mention "well-meant" feedback. That is the kind that helps us grow, right? Thanks for your insightful input, Zdenek!
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    Mar 28 2013: Exactly.
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    Mar 28 2013: I have the opportunity to review papers that are written by high school seniors ... to be honest most of them are really bad.

    You really have two questions 1) school and work and 2) private lives. To be honest that line is becoming very blurred. When I went to school a teacher could tell me my worked was poor and give me a "F" and fail to promote. Today in education I see the parents and students as being much more sensitative to any negative feedback. Teachers and administrators are looking for way to "pass" students that need to be held back. Universities are holding classes for students that were not prepared to enter college. In the last ten years we have observed the dumbing down of America. In the military we are required to accept 100,000 "unqualified" enlistees into each branch. These people usually do not live up to the low standards they have set for themselves.

    At some time we all work with someone who is unjust in their assessment and makes uncalled for remarks. However, these reflect on them not on us ... we can learn and grow from the experience ... or we can start to die from within. Education gives us more tools to deal with these situations than the "person on the street" has access to.

    I do not advocate taking "crap" from these people ... but there are occassions that we must focus on the goal. There are proper channels to deal with abusive supervisors / administrators / etc ... Fight the fights you can win and pray that you can tell the diffrerence. Although you may win some small fights the war will be won on long range objectives and goals because the pen is really mightier than the sword.

    I have had three jobs and retired from all three and can tell you that there are people who are aware of the "bad luggage" and can spot the "up and coming".

    However, grads from Ill State Normal are better than SIU grads. Gotcha.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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      Mar 28 2013: I've certainly enjoyed reading your comment, Robert! Undergraduate education, getting kids to actually learn and how to give them constructive criticism came up in a class discussion last night actually, so I think I might know where you're coming from. It is important, like you said, to be able to tell apart the kind of feedback that helps us and the kind that tends to take away our will power and cripple us, totally contrary to what constructive criticism is all about. Thanks!

      And oh yes, I see what you did there: "However, grads from Ill State Normal are better than SIU grads. Gotcha." I think you know what I am going to say to that -- SIU grads are the best!

      Best wishes to you too, Bob.
      Angela.
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        Mar 30 2013: Angela, I do appreciate your school loyality ... and applaud it but I applaud the under dog in most all things ... so here is to the runner-up Yeah SIU.