4 Reasons Leaders Reject Criticism (And How They Can Learn to Accept It)

Facing criticism can come as a challenge to even the most self-assured individuals. If most of us are honest, in fact, we’ll have to admit that some people (and some of us) would rather face down a military skirmish or a forest fire than a guilt-tripping parent, an angry spouse, or a critical boss. Indeed, most […]

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Facing criticism can come as a challenge to even the most self-assured individuals. If most of us are honest, in fact, we’ll have to admit that some people (and some of us) would rather face down a military skirmish or a forest fire than a guilt-tripping parent, an angry spouse, or a critical boss.

Indeed, most of us are so scared of criticism on some level that we spend our entire lives running from it. We may be so afraid of criticism that we create entire psychological defense mechanisms simply to reject the pain that accompanies a critical assessment of our behavior. But why do most of us live like this?

  1. We Reject Criticism Because It Hurts

For many of us, the answer is quite simple: Criticism hurts. It hurts badly.

But criticism can also show us the way forward. In fact, a person who outright rejects criticism is a bit like a sea captain who outright rejects a compass. At its best (or even at its worst), most criticism is going to contain some grain of truth to it. Even a single grain of truth can be used as an extremely useful guide in life.

  1. We Don’t Receive Criticism Because We Alienate Our Toughest Critics

Have you ever tried to be blunt with someone who strongly reacts to any amount of criticism that is leveled at them? The message in these scenarios is usually clear: As long as I’m not criticized, things will be pleasant for everyone.

Too often, otherwise-capable leaders fall into the trap of becoming this person. They surround themselves with people who never tell them when their ideas are duds. To their ears, flattery sounds much sweeter than the truth. Like the aforementioned sea captain without a compass, these leaders are surprised when their ship becomes dashed on the rocks.

  1. They Reject Criticism Because They Equate Change With Discomfort or Pain

For the most part, human beings are creatures of habit. We become accustomed to dealing with problems in a certain way, and anything that upsets the problem-solving process is often met with hesitation or outright dismissal. For this reason, most of us are reluctant to change our approach to decision-making.

Change is an uncomfortable process. It might provoke some unpleasant responses. In fact, it probably will. No one can deny that. But how many of us stay in unhappy and unproductive situations simply because those situations are familiar? From making promising yet drastic career changes to switching up your lifestyle or habits, change is difficult on a fundamental level, making criticism challenging to accept.

  1. They Reject Criticism Because They’re Blind to the Benefits of Self-Improvement

An old fable describes two frogs who live in a puddle on a road. One day, one of the frogs decides that he will get out of his comfort zone and explore the area off the well-beaten track that has come to be his entire world.

But his friend is dead-set against this notion. After all, the risk-averse frog says, we have all that we could ever want in this puddle. There’s fresh mud, a half-decent supply of food, and a few nice spots to relax in the shade.

But the other frog wants to see whether there is more to life than sitting in a puddle. So he sets out on his journey and eventually finds a vast pond full of flies to eat and lily-pads to lounge on. The air there is cool and the water there is fresh. In fact, he can’t believe how much his life has improved due to his personal journey into this new area. While the frog who risked the journey is counting his many new blessings, a passing carriage squishes the frog who stayed behind as he is sleeping in the old puddle in the road.

While this fable is chiefly about two frogs, it actually has something vital to tell us about human nature. Most of us will stay in a negative or even dangerous situation simply because it is a familiar one. We will avoid seeking out better situations in order that we may do away with risk altogether. But in the process, we will miss out on all the good that life has to offer.

When it comes to criticism and personal growth, we should strive to be more like the frog who sought out greener pastures. There may be many risks involved in the journey, but if truth be told, staying in our “safe zone” might not actually be the safest option available to us.

There can be little doubt that accepting criticism about ourselves involves a difficult journey towards self-realization. There can be little doubt that personal growth is often a painful process. For leaders who want to pursue a virtuous course of action, it is a vitally important one.

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