A farmer went to a market along with his son to sell his donkey. He took his donkey with his son seated on it. On the way a passerby told him. “What a strange thing, you are an old man and this climate is so hot and your son is young and he could easily walk the distance. Instead of him you should sit on the donkey”. Hearing this remark he asked his son to walk the distance and he sat on the donkey. Another passerby told him, “What a pity, the donkey is carrying a man, whose weight it would not bear and the climate is so hot, it may happen that the donkey may die on the way. Hence both of you must carry the donkey.
The farmer came down from the donkey and bought a long stick and bound the legs of the donkey with the thread. Then the father and the son carried the donkey by putting the ends of the stick on their shoulders. They happened to pass by a river. The river had a wooden bridge. They walked along the bridge. Since the donkey is upside down, it saw it’s own image in the water and started to shake its legs so that it could be freed from the clutches of its master and his sons to meet the donkey found in the water. It shook so much so that all the three fell into the river and died. This is what will happen to people who want to listen to every remark of others and act accordingly.
Constructive criticism, negative feedback and unpleasant conversations are part and parcel of life. No one is immune to them. As soon as we hear some remark either positive or negative about us, we may usually just ignore it, or think and brood over it or try to see whether we can learn something from that remark. It is not realistic to always expect to receive praise. While it is nice to hear good things about ourselves but it may not be the reality or it may be a matter of politeness. When praise comes, we should be humble and not too much elated because of it. Negative criticism, however, while not always welcome, is crucial to look back once more our actions for ourselves and if we were to asses for ourselves we would become better versions of ourselves.
When negative criticisms come to us we should know how to deal with them.
a) First of all we should accept that we are not perfect. If it is said with good intentions, we should not hold a grudge against the individual. We should take it for its worth and move on.
b) If someone has judged us unfairly, we should explain ourself when there is an opportunity, stating the facts politely and cordially. In case, we have spoken things in a situation of stress or do not want to break the conversation with the third party, we should always apologize later as soon as possible.
c) We must be on our guard from defending our actions. But rather we should try to listen what the speaker wants to say. We may not agree to what he says because we have a difference in opinion but defending ourselves will give the impression that have not really listened to their views and we are not open for a dialogue.
d) We should demonstrate empathy and put ourselves in the shoes of the speaker. They may be emotionally charged and we must see not only what they say but also what they don’t say and what motivates them to pass such a remark.
e) We may not necessarily agree with criticism but there will be some kernel of truth. We should identify those areas that we agree and if possible discuss with person how one could do things differently. Explain to the person why his criticism is not justified as we have different opinion on this matter.
f) We should always filter the criticisms. We should see whether the person is prejudiced and whether he has a custom of bringing down the good name of others because of jealousy. We should focus on constructive criticism and ignore the trolls.
g) Sometimes, by passing criticism on us, they express their frustration and end up with being rude or disrespectable, even if they do not mean it. If this happens just once, we should recognize that the person might be having a bad day for himself and let it go. However if it happens in a regular basis, It can have a toxic impact on our mental well being. Hence we should take it with the pinch of salt and offer him positive and constructive criticism to the person so that he may realize his mistake and correct himself, being ashamed of passing such negative criticisms on others.
Day and night make one day, so too, appreciation and criticism are part and parcel of life. We need not be surprised about it. We should not also too much elated or depressed on account of them. But we should be calm and reflect over it rather than reacting to it. The maturity of a person depends on it. November is the month to reflect on the saints and departed brethren. Everyone of them have received their rewards depending on how they lived on earth in the short duration of this life.
Most Rev. Dr. M. Devadass Ambrose
Bishop of Thanjavur