Are You Qualified to Criticize Others?
Vinod Anand | 23 Sep 2013

Are You Qualified to Criticize Others? (Vinod Anand) Standing in the queue at a food store, I was taken aback when the sales guy at the checkout counter interrupted my billing to cater to the foreigner right behind me. I firmly said, “Finish mine first, please.” Simultaneously, the foreigner refused to step ahead, insisting that I be dealt with first. Just as I was about to smile and thank him for his courtesy, he nodded and said, “I know. This is India. What can you do?” I froze, no longer knowing whether to thank him on my behalf, or to snub him on behalf of my country. What was shocking was that he didn’t need to think twice before insulting my country in my presence. So he was obviously used to Indians concurring with him on this issue and had probably even picked it up from one of us. We often hear our fellow countrymen self-deprecatingly use this statement, almost as if voicing it absolves them of all responsibility and in some way lifts them above whatever is wrong with our country. Sure, this is India, and you are Indians, and your country is only as good or bad as you make it. And you sir, standing in the queue behind me, yes, this is India and you are a guest in our country. To me, criticism is nothing but a cover-up for low self-esteem. We criticize people because we wish to lower them in the eyes of others, and maybe through the same action raise our own worth. And we are self-deprecating or self-critical when we do not value ourselves and seek to occupy a high ground by making a joke of our own shortcomings. A self-deprecating person is a weak personality who believes that he or she is inferior to others. He is convinced that something is wrong with him and rather than wait for others to point this out, jumps in with self-criticism. So he will typically say, “You would know better, I don’t have half the brains you do,” or “This is India, what do you expect?” Have you ever heard a confident, successful man make such a self-deprecating statement? Either way, whether you criticize yourself or another, you are doing so out of a feeling of low self-esteem. Social media and the various platforms it gives people, has made critics of all of us, and we freely voice our opinion on the many networks available. Who cares about a designated professional critic anymore; except as a reference point, whether for food, films, art or books? Everyone has an opinion — and that is fine — but people get judgmental, and sometimes cruelly so. Some people are so critical all the time that it becomes difficult to discuss anything with them. Their first response is always negative, a sure way to discourage others from coming to you with ideas. Are you sure you are not one of them? Because a recent study found that most such negative souls are unaware of this trait, and claim they criticize because they are honest and they care. What they do not realize is that bringing down others becomes with some people an attempt at proving their own smartness. People criticize so as to draw attention to the weaknesses of others, thereby proving their own superiority. Everyone wants a success story. Some get theirs by working hard; some by pulling others down and so seeming taller. However, those who are truly superior do not need to prove anything by pulling down others. We are of course not talking of constructive criticism here. To do so would be akin to throwing away the baby with the dirty water. Constructive criticism is important and helps us grow as a part of the learning curve. Criticism, in order to be effective, must serve a purpose and be delivered in as gentle a manner as possible. How do you differentiate between constructive and negative criticism? Simple. Just ask yourself the purpose of your criticism. Is it because you are truly concerned about the one you are critical about and wish to help in the growth process? Or is it because criticizing another helps you feel better about yourself? The first is absolutely justified; the latter is demeaning to you. A senior, well-respected industrialist once shared with me his method of sifting the wheat from the chaff when employees come to him with complaints and criticism of others. “Whenever someone criticizes a colleague, I ask them to first list all the good qualities of the person they wish to talk about and then come down to the criticism. This ensures that there is no fear of being unfair and helps the other person see things in perspective as well.” Punjabis have an interesting saying, which translated, says, “Before you criticize another, take a hard look at your own self.” And also remember, every time you point a finger at another, three of your own fingers remain pointed back at yourself. In fact, self-criticism and pulling down others in order to feel good yourself is a sign of low self-esteem     PAGE  PAGE 2