I was just listening to the Lifestyle Business Podcast, "Episode 51 - 5 Signs You Might be a Loser" - great podcast. It's an aggressive title, but it's actual a super helpful episode that's not aggressive at all.
One of the topics on there was criticism - Dan and Ian were talking about how it's a sure path to loserdom if you can't take constructive criticism.
I think that's true, but I still try to almost never give negative criticism to anyone, ever.
"As a general rule...people ask for advice only in order not to follow it; or if they do follow it, in order to have someone to blame for giving it." — From Alexandre Dumas's "The Three Musketeers"
I've found the vast majority of people will never take any criticism you give them, will be upset at you for criticizing them, and will dislike you even more if you were right.
This is something of a hard thing to accept. Obviously, you want all your friends and family and colleagues to become successful. If you study and apply yourself to succeeding, certainly you'll pick up some ideas about what works and what doesn't. But normally, if you tell someone that what they're doing isn't working, it goes poorly.
I've gotten this wrong plenty, and still get it wrong sometimes. Most of the time, giving critical advice to someone is a very, very bad idea. I can only think of a few exceptions to that rule.
But if you're inclined to be successful, you probably want to get critical feedback. Here's some thought son how to do that -
On Getting Honest Feedback -
Most sensible people eventually stop giving any sort of negative criticism at all - it almost never works to change behavior, and quite frequently strains a relationship.
But, if you're dead-set on building more and doing more, it'd certainly help to have some honest critical feedback from time to time. How to do that?
1. Do what's recommended to you. You can get general good advice all over the place - a book, a podcast, a website, an article, an essay is recommended. A strategy for raising your credit score, a vitamin supplement that might help with an injury you have.
Most people don't take this advice. But, you could jump to take it, especially if you asked for it. When you put advice you got into motion quickly, it shows that giving you advice isn't useless. This is a funny thing - most people don't take most advice. Thus, giving advice is a really bad proposition - it probably won't accomplish anything good, and has a chance of causing bad feelings. But if you show that giving you advice produces good results, you're more likely to get it.
2. Report back and be grateful. After taking some advice quickly, report back that you did it, and say thanks for the advice. Be quite cool and gracious about it. If it's appropriate, give a small gift to say thanks for the guidance.
It's surprising how rare this happens... we're naturally forgetful. Get some sort of note taking or to-do-list-managing going on in your life, and make a note when you start to follow someone's advice. Afterwards, call or email to say thanks and share your observations.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 a few times. After you get good advice from someone, implement it quickly, then be gracious and thankful about it. Wait a little while, maybe a couple weeks, and then reach out to them again for more advice. Also, try to be helpful and cool and all of that.
If you do this 2-3 times, you differentiate yourself from almost everyone else. Most people don't put advice into action quickly if ever, and aren't very gracious afterwards. Do both, and you stand out.
4. Already identify a problem or lacking area and take some (even small) action on it before asking for advice. At this point, you've taken a few suggestions, implemented them, and been very gracious about it. Now, something like, "Hey, I know you've got excellent nutrition and fitness and it's something I've been working on. I've already cut sweets from my diet entirely, could you recommend anything else you see I'm doing subpar?"
Showing that you're already aware and taking action helps.
5. Ask for brutal harshness, and then celebrate it. "I'm trying to improve my finances, and you're the most savvy person with money I know. I want you to be totally brutal with me here, and I'll respect and admire you more the more brutal you are. Could you give me an honest assessment of the biggest mistake or two you see? We've been friends a while, so you probably noticed something, eh?"
That one only works if you're consistently demonstrated that you can put advice into practice and are gracious about it. Afterwards, be even more grateful and gracious if you get hard advice, and then try to put that into action.
Most savvy people absolutely will not give you advice on an emotionally-related topic - money, food, identity, work, relationships, things like that. I've learned the hard way not to do it. So if you want that advice, you've got to show you can handle it and you appreciate it. If possible and it's desirable, credit whoever gave you advice publicly and speak really well of them for doing so.
6. Getting critical feedback from professionals. You can short-circuit and speed up this whole process by getting feedback from your accountant, lawyer, doctor, nutritionist, or whatever - but do remember that savvy professionals are still careful about giving critical feedback. Most people don't like it, and might even take their business elsewhere if they feel bad enough.
Getting around that - "Bob, you know why I hire you, right? It's because you're always giving great feedback and you're really sharp on the ball. So, I want you to give me really critical feedback here. Don't hold back. I know this an area that needs improvement, and I'm only going to be happy if you give me the most raw, honest feedback you can. What do you think about (X)?"
A final thought on giving feedback - if you're really dead set on helping someone, start by giving them positive feedback and see if they take it. It's a lot easier to suggest adding something than suggest cutting or changing something. If someone can't take positive feedback and implement, there's almost no chance they'll take negative feedback.
If you do have occasion to give critical feedback, make it very clear what your motives are. People get really suspicious and defensive when criticized, so make it very clear that you're not looking for anything, or even trying to gain moral superiority out of it.
Finally, stressing your own mistakes and personal experience goes a long way towards not making feedback hurt. When a person hears they're doing something wrong, they don't like it and typically don't react well. But if you stress that you used to do it that way, understand why, but then you changed - it might be a little more palatable.
Still, you probably don't want to give critical feedback very often if ever - it almost never works. But you do want to get it! So, show people that their critical feedback won't be lost on you - you'll take advice into consideration, put into action quickly, and be very gracious for receiving it.