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Accepting Constructive Criticism and Promoting Growth

Photo courtesy of The New York Times

With the recent escalation of the Black Lives Matter movement, it is important for people to learn how to accept criticism and use it to grow into a more conscious and conscientious member of society. While spending time to individually do research and educate oneself increases sensitivity and awareness, it is also vital to learn how to hear and accept corrections from others with more experience or education. For example, an individual may make a comment or gesture that has negative connotations or is related to an insensitive event without knowing. When this happens, it presents the chance for another person to gracefully interject with a correction, constructive critique or explanation. While it can be difficult to admit wrongdoing, it gives people an opportunity to learn and apologize for this unintentional offense.

Providing constructive criticism can be a complicated task, as most people do not enjoy confrontation. These interactions should not be confrontational or awkward; however, due to a lack of education on how to accept feedback it can become a difficult situation. An article from Bustle provides tips on how to give constructive criticism. One main component of a successful and educational conversation is to focus on the topic rather than the person, which helps to avoid getting a defensive reaction. Another aspect of a solid constructive statement is to also provide specific suggestions on how to fix the problematic comment or behavior, even if it is just to ask someone not to do or say that thing anymore. Finally, a great way to make sure that one’s feedback is heard is to remain positive, rather than tearing someone down. This allows for the corrected party to not have a negative take away from the conversation, but rather feel as if they have learned valuable information. Asking if someone has questions can be beneficial to gaining mutual understanding, but it is also acceptable to let the individual do their own follow-up research. Unless otherwise noted by an individual or a group, one should not expect to have all of their questions answered, especially by someone who is part of the group that is offended by it. This is because, according to Jeanine Carryl’s previous Herald article “Black Pain: A Valid Experience,” “each question is more draining than the last.”

Many people initially react defensively when feedback is offered, as a way to protect themself. However, according to The Muse, “we need to get over it.” Constructive criticism is just that: it is supposed to promote growth and learning rather than tear someone down. Another frequent reaction that a person may have is to “cancel” them or remove them from their life. However, as Aminah Jenkins pointed out in another recent Herald article, “People get so caught up in cancel culture that they delegitimize the concerns of marginalized groups. Denying accountability inherently gaslights the person or group affected by the action.” These reactions take away the voice of those who are being impacted by statements and actions. Therefore, it is more important to listen and learn than to try and protect oneself.

Following the feedback, it is important to thank the person that has provided this constructive criticism, because it likely took quite a bit of courage to step forward and express their discomfort. Within the LGBTQ+ community it has become a standard practice to ask about another’s pronouns. However, those outside of the community may not be as aware of this practice and may either accidentally or intentionally disregard a person’s pronouns. Rather than just apologizing after being corrected, it is a better practice to make an active effort to abide by their chosen pronouns. When someone is misgendered, it can cause distress and is frequently coupled with an internal battle regarding one’s gender identity — this strife can be lessened with a simple correction. Many times a person will accept this correction and attempt to respect one’s pronouns. This is a good example of how positively accepting feedback from someone whose experience is being invalidated can create a mutual respect and promote learning.

There is currently a lot of information being shared about microaggressions within commonly used phrases and everyday activities. Therefore, listening to someone’s correction is vital to creating an atmosphere of respect and understanding — especially on a college campus where learning and growth are supposed to thrive. A final step to accepting constructive criticism in a healthy way is to ask for clarification. This prevents the mistake from being made again and provides one with more information so they can provide feedback to other people in a more educated fashion.

By Elinor Shelp-Peck, Co-Editor in Chief


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