In the professional American football world there is a team that stands out, which has earned a reputation for doing things differently: the Seattle Seahawks.
The Seahawks’ technical team does not criticize the players. There are not the typical cries, reprimands and humiliations that are heard in other sports teams.
Their coach explains that instead of criticizing and focusing on what they did wrong, he explains what he would like them to do differently. When asked about the reason for that unusual change of perspective among coaches, Pete Carroll said:
– We do not have time to criticize. We tell them exactly what we want and as fast as we can, instead of wasting time with criticism.
Unfortunately, we are not always aware that criticism has a greater impact than praise, its effects are not only prolonged over time but the emotions that it unleashes are more intense.
A study conducted at the University of Florida confirmed that, the negative emotions generated by criticism usually involve greater processing at the cognitive level. That is, we are ruminating the criticism that is one of the reasons why it does us so much damage. The problem is that our brain is programmed to pay more attention to negative stimuli, because they are the ones that represent the greatest risk for us.
However, criticism is not only destructive for those who receive it, but it can also be harmful for those who criticize, especially if they do so often.
The black hole through which our energy escapes
Criticism can become a black hole that escapes our time and energy. To criticize, we must focus on the other, see what he does and doesn’t, what attitudes he assumes and what words he has said or not. That implies a lot of time and effort, an energy that would be better used if we destined it to improve ourselves.
There is no doubt that sometimes, the attitude, words and behavior of others may come to bother us, but the truth is that destructive criticism will not change it. A destructive criticism generates frustration and resentment, so it is not the best weapon to change something. Therefore, Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Basically, criticizing constantly means we are too bored with our lives, so we devote ourselves to sniffing in the lives of others. Criticizing means dedicating oneself to seeing the straw in someone else’s eye, without taking into account the beam in one’s own eye. Reason for which the writer Rochefoucauld affirmed: “The mediocre spirits generally condemn everything that is not within their reach”.
On the other hand, criticism leaves us exactly at the same starting point. When the criticism is not constructive; that is, it does not contain a possible solution, it usually generates more dissatisfaction and frustration, closing a circle of negativity around us.
The picture is often repeated: we see something we do not like and criticize it. The day progresses, we see another thing that we do not like and we criticize it as well… At the end of the day, it is not strange that we think that the world is a hostile place where nothing works as it should. What will we have solved? Absolutely nothing, except that we’re feeling worse.
Therefore, any criticism must carry the seed of change, an alternative solution. Otherwise, it is better to let it go. The inner peace that is achieved when we get rid of the habit of criticizing everything, is priceless. Remember that “The most difficult thing is to know ourselves; the easiest thing, to criticize the others”, according to Epictetus.
Excessive self-criticism prevents us from moving forward
Excessive self-criticism is also harmful and completely counterproductive. Psychologists from the universities of Massachusetts and McGill discovered, in a series of experiments, a consistent pattern: the more we criticize ourselves, the less we advance in the achievement of our goals. In practice, the constant criticism keeps us stuck, preventing us from reaching our objectives.
It is not a surprising result because, if we think about it, having a voice in our head that constantly criticizes us is not motivating but deeply discouraging. On the contrary, these researchers appreciated that the people who were more successful in reaching their goals were those who kept self-criticism under control.
That does not mean that we should ignore our mistakes, it means that the constant and ruthless criticism towards ourselves, the permanent dissatisfaction with our results without a word of encouragement, is not a positive attitude. Criticizing constantly is the best way to dynamite your dreams and trip up your goals.
Use the criticism with a lot of restraint, making sure you can add value. It is a change of perspective that is worthwhile for everyone, for those around you and for yourself.
Powers, T. A. et. Al. (2011) The Effects of Self-Criticism and Self-Oriented Perfectionism on Goal Pursuit. Pers Soc Psychol Bull; 37(7): 964-975.
Baumeister, R. F. et. Al. (2001) Bad is stronger than good. Review of General Psychology; 5(4): 323-370.