Occasionally I decide to run through the backlog of articles written by those I follow here on WordPress- and occasionally some of the articles I find horrify me. Today, that article is “Dealing with Non-Constructive Criticism” by The Classical Feminine Woman.
While I wouldn’t necessarily consider many of their articles produced by this blog to be quality content? Usually I do still enjoy them. They often give you some food for thought at the very least, even if they’re not well written. However, this particular article has my panties in a knot, so-to-speak, for a couple of reasons.
My first (and primary) problem with this article is that there is a difference between criticism (constructive and non) and insults– and I believe that people would do well to learn the difference between them is it is a difference that is unbelievably important to us as adults.
The fact of the matter is that you simply cannot make it through life without learning how to give and take Criticism or Critique. It is an integral part of growth and development for any person; it is imperative to identifying our flaws and growing ourselves accordingly- and this is true regardless of whether this critique comes from within ourselves, or from another person altogether.
Criticism is generally divided into two categories: Constructive Criticism, and Non-Constructive Criticism. Contrary to popular belief, however, the difference between the two isn’t that one is positive (constructive) and anything else is negative (non-constructive). In fact, Constructive Criticism isn’t always positive at all- nor is it always meant to be. Likewise, Non-Constructive criticism can full to the brim with positivity and yet offer nothing substantial or of worth.
No… The true difference is in the fact that Constructive Criticism offers a well reasoned opinion as to the quality and value of something (including its flaws) and then provides tips or advice on how to improve it. Non-Constructive Criticism is no different, except in the fact that advice for improvement is not provided along with such a critique; the person receiving the critique is left to both ask and answer the questions of “How can I make this better” on their own.
Where most people fail is in the assumption that Non-Constructive Criticism equates to an Insult- and the author of this article, sadly, falls into that same trap. But this is not the truth. While some particularly nasty people may indeed provide Insult under the false guise of “Critique”, true Criticism is offered with the intent of helping the person receiving the critique to improve the thing which that critique concerns. This remains true regardless of whether it is Constructive or Non-Constructive… Insults are something entirely different, however. Instead of being meant to help, they are meant to hurt; the sole purpose of an insult is to devalue, degrade, and belittle that which is being insulted- and they are meant to be and should never be interpreted as anything other than an act of hatred and disrespect.
The conflation of Non-Constructive Criticism with Insult is a misnomer which we all need to be careful of perpetuating. This is especially true when it comes to advising others on how to respond to such things… Which brings me to the second problem that I have with this article.
Some Critique may be inaccurate due to misunderstanding, and therefore begs clarification and explanation in order for the person to provide truly accurate and helpful critique. There is no shame in responding to Critique when you feel that such Critique does need further elaboration or clarification. It is not a waste of energy to do so, either… Indeed, if you legitimately wish to obtain the most personal or other growth from Critique, then discourse on that Critique is almost necessary– making it more a waste of your time not to respond to it as you are not facilitating the most growth possible.
But responding to Insult is, yes, a waste of time and energy. They are not meant to help you better yourself, but to hurt and abuse you; to make you doubt yourself and your abilities, make you feel inferior, disrespect you, and so on. As such, no. You shouldn’t waste yourself on responding to them- and on that point I agree whole heartedly. But that does not mean that they are things that should be entirely disregarded. No matter how negative they are, they should still be examined for truth and insight into yourself, your actions, and your ability [sic]. Examining them for truth, however, does not mean internalizing them.
But when you conflate Non-Constructive Critique with Insult and discourage others from responding- driving home the idea that not responding somehow makes them a better, more superior Woman? Ultimately you are causing irrevocable harm to them; it causes harm because the lesson in that kind of a mentality is that “negative things” have no merit and should therefore never be examined for their truth or value; you are teaching them to automatically dismiss any commentary which is not presented in a manner meant only to make them feel good about their faults. It breeds ego, and it breeds superiority, and it breeds a disregard for the opinion of others. Furthermore, ultimately it breeds a lack of introspection and self growth and betterment.
And that, dear people, is dangerous. Not only is it dangerous, but these traits are not markers of a genuine Lady… And if you wish to advise people on how to be a genuine, Feminine Lady, then you should be encouraging them to learn the difference between Critique and Insult- and encouraging them to learn how to handle even the worst of them with grace and finesse.
Because the mark of a “True Feminine Lady” isn’t in never responding to these… The idea that we should never respond in clarification or defense of ourselves less we let them “win” is both ridiculous and absurd. Instead, the true mark is in learning how to determine when something is legitimate critique (whether Constructive or Non) and when something is an actual insult- and then learning how and when it is appropriate to respond to which, and to what ends. It is also in learning to examine even the wholly negative things for truth and value as opposed to immediately dismissing them- because even insults may sometimes contain a gleam of truth.