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Criticism sounds like something you want to turn away from, ignoring it as a personal attack. And it certainly can be when it’s thrown like a dart, meant to hurt.

In its best form, criticism is “the act or art of analyzing and evaluating or judging the quality of literary or artistic work, musical performance, art exhibit, dramatic production, etc.” While this kind of criticism can also sting, it is something most of us need to grow, to get better, or to hone a skill, like writing, or drawing or painting. Who is so perfect that they can’t use constructive criticism in some area of their life?

When you open your ears and keep you mouth closed, and listen to well-intended criticism, you can be a learner, and see what you’ve created through different eyes. Years ago, when I finished writing something, I felt like I’d delivered a baby, and it was beautiful, no matter what anybody else said. Now I know that you have to be much more objective about writing: it is a product, and there are rules and standards, and how the words are put together makes all the difference in how interesting it is. Words are quite remarkable: their power comes not only from making the careful selection, but also putting them together in just the right way.  I’ve found I can rewrite something several times (and hopefully each time it gets better), and still I could continue the process. But there is a time to stop.

In my writing group, someone else reads my story. Hearing it aloud, I myself become the first critic. I realize that this isn’t right, or that could be better. Then I listen to what the others have to say. This generally means I have changes to make, all for the better.

How wonderful if this could be transferred to other parts of my life (everyone’s lives) and listening becomes the first step in understanding and improvement. Of course, how criticism is delivered is very important, too. It has to be constructive, stay on the topic, and never be personal. It’s about developing, getting better at whatever one seeks to achieve. Who doesn’t have room to grow?