As you’ve probably noticed in my blogs, I’m a fan of Aristotle’s philosophy. One of his quotes makes a great point about criticism:
“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.”
I have seen and met those people. They are so afraid of what others think that they tend to not do anything in fear of criticism. Therefore they say nothing that could be constructed as critical or even innovative. In doing so they become nothing. They become invisible. They are never considered for promotion. They are never considered to lead a team. Their thoughts are never considered when looking for innovative ideas. They are nothing.
If we think about Aristotle’s quote in reverse:
- Do something
- Say what’s on your mind (in a constructive way)
- Be something.
You are a unique human being. You bring something unique and different from every other person. Recognize the value in that uniqueness.
Doing nothing can be the result of a boss who is all-controlling. If that’s the case, look for another position, look for another job, look to a new company. Being in a position of never doing anything other than what you’re told and how to do it, will suck the life out of you! You will find yourself a greatly diminished human being that will destroy your self-esteem and it will be noticed by your loved ones.
But doing something will almost always bring criticism. If you step back and view the situation almost from a third-party position, you’ll often see that the criticism comes from people who themselves have low self-esteem. The criticism comes in an effort to make themselves look better or feel better about themselves. It never works. Healthy people see right through that maneuver and discount the other person, not you.
Say What’s on Your Mind
This one must be accomplished with good self-esteem. When you’re in that state of mind, you’re not criticizing, you’re just trying to look at things from a different perspective. Remember that we are all unique. We all see things from a different perspective.
Teams that can listen and respect each other’s points of view are the healthiest and strongest teams.
Always stay in a respectful position. Acknowledge that everyone has a unique perspective and it’s best if we all hear and understand that perspective. Great teams are not “group think” teams. We’re not lemmings blindly following the herd off the cliff. Someone needs to say “I see us heading for a cliff and the results aren’t good”. Just that simple statement will often get others sharing “you know, I’ve been wondering the same thing. This just doesn’t feel right”.
Be open, honest, and respectful. Understand what’s on everyone’s mind. It can save the team
What do you want to be known for?
- The one who gets the team thinking?
- The respectful one who always brings the best out in others?
- The Jerk?
- The non-existent, silent one in the room?
This is your choice. Get to know the other team members as human beings. Help them get to know you as a human being. We are all unique. We become the best team when we understand, respect, and use that uniqueness to build a great teams and reach great team decisions.