On Criticism

By Zig Ziglar

My dictionary says that criticism is “the art of judging with propriety of the beauties and faults of a performance; remark on beauties and faults; critical observation, verbal or written.”

Col. George Washington Goethels, the man who completed the Panama Canal, handled criticism effectively. During the construction he had numerous problems with the geography, climate and mosquitoes.

Like all mammoth projects, he had his critics back home who constantly harped on what he was doing and predicted that he would never complete the project. However, he stuck to the task and said nothing.

One day an associate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer the critics?”

“Yes,” Goethels responded.

“How?” he was asked.

“With the Canal,” Goethels replied. Though that approach didn’t bring instant satisfaction, the canal itself brought long-term vindication.

Aristotle said criticism was meant as a standard of judging will. Addison said it was ridiculous for any man to criticize the works of another if he has not distinguished himself by his own performance.

It has also been said that no one so thoroughly appreciates the value of constructive criticism as the one who is giving it.

The world is hard on critics, but on occasion they have real value. Ask yourself this question: “What interest does this person (critic) have in me?” A parent, teacher, employer or coach has a vested interest in your performance.

Unfortunately, many of them do not know how to effectively build a person up while giving suggestions that can make a difference.

The key is to criticize the performance and not the performer. My mother once criticized my performance by saying, “For most boys this would be all right. But you’re not most boys–you’re my son and my son can do better than that.”

She had “criticized the performance,” because it needed improvement, but she had praised the performer because he needed the praise. Follow this procedure and I’ll see you at the top!