Criticism = #StruggleBusAllDayLong

Something has been bothering me about Student Affairs Professionals and myself. I haven’t been able to pinpoint it until I saw a conversation on the Twitters last night.

I realized what was bothering me was the inability of #SAPros to take criticism, regardless the form, be it harsh, constructive, inclusive, exclusive, personal or professional.

Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer
Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer

Now, I’m definitely on the struggle bus with it, and am working everyday to really embrace feedback and critiques; good bad, ugly, harsh or soft. It always hurts and hard to hear, but its needed. Even the most gracious and humble #SAPro struggles with feedback and criticism.

But perhaps the question is why does it hurt and sting? Why do we immediately get defensive, find excuses, pass on the blame?

I think it’s because, at least of the #SA field, we put our blood, sweat, tears and heart into our work, our students and even in supporting each other. Often times we make sacrifices for our work that we probably would never have made in another field. To critique this type of work we also critique the individual. Sometimes you can’t critique the work without critiquing the person, and vice versa.

Its this personal nature of our work and dedication that we find taking criticism hard. We see people throwing up the walls and defenses to avoid a blast of feedback. We end up nitpicking the way feedback was given, and therefore dismissing the information because it has provided too harshly or not put into a specific style. We pass the blame to someone or something else for the actions in order to divert the conversation and critiquing to them/it. We fight criticism with criticism and begin a “well, you do this wrong” or “this is whats wrong with you/it” war.

In a field where we look at ourselves as educators the ability to be wrong or that we could still improve something that we thought was perfect is a hard pill to swallow. It is tough to acknowledge and take responsibility that we are not only educators but also students. We have to acknowledge the good, bad and ugly not only in others but in ourselves. We have to be open to learning and understanding one another and to be patient and know that we are each individuals with different strengths, love languages, communication styles and histories. We need to be honest and not be afraid to give criticism but also be strong and wise enough to ACCEPT criticism as well. And sometimes it is just hearing the feedback or information inspite of the delivery method or individual delivering it.

I’ll be honest, I don’t really have an ending for this, other than after pondering this for a few days I’m trying even harder to reflect and make changes to help me learn and understand myself and others in order to be better prepared to take feedback and criticism from others and myself. And so the #strugglebus continues (but at least it just got a new detail job with a panda on the side :))

Until next time!

Peace, Love and Pandas!

Published by Brian

I am currently the Assistant Director of Student Life for Registered Student Organizations and Late-Night Programming at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, digital worlds, identity development and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer a lot for my fraternity and multiple regional and national professional associations.

2 thoughts on “Criticism = #StruggleBusAllDayLong

  1. Brian – two things come to mind when I read through this…

    1) Biologically, our brains are drawn towards criticism over praise and we will dwell on criticism longer. Think about our hunter/gather ancestry in the forest and to the left is a fruit tree and to the right is a tiger. Our brains are naturally going to focus and care about the tiger a lot longer. Biologically, the tiger (or criticism) can be seen as a threat to our existence and worth. There was a study done of cars passing each other on the highway. The result was people overwhelmingly remember the number of times a car passed them vs they passed a car.

    2) I’m fine with criticism, but some times it seems that people thrive off of it and either a) don’t provide solutions b) don’t also praise when something is going well. Instead they just throw the punch to throw the punch and in a public/open platform like Twitter, the ego can get feed easily. I like the quote from Brene Brown, “”If you’re not also in the area getting your ass kicked, I don’t care what you have to say.

    1. Tom- great points! I appreciate your first point of how natural it is for us as humans to be pessimistic rather than optimistic. I also definitely agree that there are people who feed off of criticizing others. On the flip side, I think it’s how we react to it comments and feedback that we can take responsibility for. Because sometimes there are still valid points in the lectures of critiques they may provide. Also, I think there’s that teachable moment too for the one who’s critiquing. You’re right some thrive off of it and sadly love seeing others get down and be torn apart but if we don’t meet them where they are but rise above it then I think we’ve been able to at the very least show them about not only feedback/critiquing within the context of understanding and humility but also battling other issues such as bullying in the workplace and tolerance. Thanks for helping to make this post even more well rounded! 🙂

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