Every critic is your friend.

thank you

This is simply a fantastic word by Craig Hamilton, author of Wisdom in Leadership: the how and why of leading the people you serve.

Every critic is your friend. They might not realize that, but they are. Whether they give you criticism with love and care or criticize you out of hatred while trying to tear you down, every critic is giving you a gift. How? Every critic is helping you get better. And just because some of them are rude about it doesn’t mean they’re not right or deeply insightful — or at least partially right. Whether they wrap the gift carefully and lovingly or give it to you in the bag from the place where they bought it, the wrapping doesn’t change the value of the gift. You cannot buy openness and honesty, as soon as you pay for it, it becomes compromised. No amount of money can purchase this kind of candour, so whatever you do don’t despise it when it is given to you.

It’s easy to focus on the manner in which a person delivers criticism. The words they use, the timing, the tone. All of those elements can be unhelpful or hurtful, but if you want to grow as a leader you need to discipline yourself to look past these elements. Let yourself feel the pain, wish that it could have been different, and be upset if you need to be — but it needs to be a short visit; you can’t stay there. You need to push past the hurt and get to the substance of the criticism. What was the person actually saying? Is there any truth to it? How could you do it better next time? What can you learn from this? As difficult as it can be, you have to overlook the manner and ugliness of the wrapping so that you can carefully examine the gift.

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