How to Criticize

People are fragile. Well, actually, let me rephrase. People are really strong, but egos are fragile.

Everyone has a really strong idea of who they are. They know what they are good at and what they are bad at. Who they are close with. What their story is, what their narrative is. In fact, someone’s narrative is the lens through which they understand the world. When a disaster occurs to someone, they often process the event by rewriting their own narrative, either consciously or unconsciously.

But our ego, if someone attacks it, is delicate. We, no matter who we are, are quick to put up walls to defend ourselves. For example, if we (coffee drinkers) were to read an article that claimed that coffee raised anxiety factors, we would go on the defensive, either criticizing the article or defending ourselves, saying “So what, I’m not prone to anxiety anyway.” Now, you might be saying to yourself “Not me, I’d take it into account, I’m a rational person.” But you probably aren’t. The response has been experimentally proven that when faced with an article like the one mentioned, people who fall into the group criticized or who perform the habit mentioned are much more likely to fight back against the article.

But the experiment had another group of people.  People who were asked to reflect on positive characteristics of themselves, and then read the article. These people, whether they were coffee drinkers or not, were less critical and more accepting of what the article had to say. They were also  more likely to actually change behavior based on what they read. They boosted and protected their ego before they read something that attacked their ego, and they were more susceptible to change.

If you want to change someone’s mind, first make them comfortable. Help them realize what it is about them that they like. What it is that they value, and then, only then, can you start to effectively criticize and help them understand their flaws.

Be kind with your words, and the change they make will be bigger.