Stand strong: managing praise and criticism in overly-critical world

One day I was talking to my therapist about my fear of criticism, and how I thought it was keeping me from my goals. She said, "Praise and criticism are the same thing." And that sounded absolutely ridiculous. How can something that makes you feel so good and something that makes you feel so bad be the same thing? She went on to explain, "Praise and criticism are other people's opinions of you. A whole person doesn't need praise to feel good and can take criticism without it derailing them. It is simply feedback that you can use or not."

Well my, my, my. This is a revelation. But a smart one. I've been called everything from superficial and self-involved to a busy-body too engaged in other people's problems. So which am I? A narcissist or a codependent? Come on, everyone, can we meet and decide as a group? No we can't, because those opinions were just that, other people's opinions based on their own experiences and feedback loops. 

Dan Reynolds, the lead singer of rock band Imagine Dragons, is a Mormon and an LGBTQ advocate. This is how he described his position.

“I knew that this is something that I needed to do, and a journey that I needed to take. Even selfishly for myself, to speak my truth, and to just feel free to be myself. I knew there will be people on the far right that will say this is too left for them, and they're upset with me. I've gotten so many emails and met with parents who are furious with me. They say, 'you're not gonna to go to heaven, you're gonna see God and God's gonna tell you, 'shame on you Dan Reynolds, you made more kids gay.'  And then I've gotten emails from the far left saying, 'you're a heterosexual white man and you're capitalizing on LGBTQ issues to try to make your band more famous.' And I think I knew already going into this there would be people on both ends that would be upset, because I'm trying to bridge a gap in the middle. And I get it. I get it. But at the end of the day, I know the journey that I'm on. And I know that I can make a change in a culture that is broken. It takes a Mormon, sadly, to speak to Mormons, because otherwise they just close their doors."

Let's take a look at this quote. He knows he is going to be criticized, he is not immune to the feedback, but he is not deterred by this. 

This is the hallmark of Courageous Communication. The ability to manage praise and criticism —not ignore, dismiss or lash out, but to manage. He acknowledges what what he is doing is hard for some to accept, but he says he knows he needs to keep doing it. As a nonprofit, we are eager to please and terrified of criticism and don't always stand strong in our beliefs for fear of alienating or upsetting.

We’ve never been more exposed to criticism—in both our personal and professional lives—and it’s daunting. If we don’t know how to handle criticism, we tend to stall in fear, and our codependence prevents us from communicating our needs, triumphs, failures, joys, and passions.

But the thing is, if you are doing or saying something important, someone is not going to like it. And that is ok. Focused, purposeful organizations don't need praise to make them feel worthy and don't let criticism keep them from moving forward. The most successful organizations care less about what people think. I know that sounds crazy but the more honest and authentic your organization is, the more it will attract people to you. 

Dan Reynolds from Imagine Dragons is a Mormon and LGBTQ advocate. He knows he is making people on both sides mad, but continues to speak out. 

Dan Reynolds from Imagine Dragons is a Mormon and LGBTQ advocate. He knows he is making people on both sides mad, but continues to speak out. 

Maryanne Dersch