CRITICISM AS TOOL FOR A CONFLICT FREE SOCIETY

Feedback in form of criticism plays a vital role in our lives, notwithstanding our profession or status in the society. For example, over the years, we have seen the impunity with which politicians embezzled and are still embezzling our commonwealth. This is mainly, among others, as a result of the almost non-existence of viable political opposition. Just as students are made to write examination on what they have been taught and to evaluate the learning and teaching process; criticism acts as checks on us all. If we must remain on track in our journey to a conflict free society, we have to change our negative attitude towards criticism.
Feedback is a reaction or response to a particular process or activity, and it is the process of getting the information essential to keep one’s efforts on track. Feedback also means the exchange of information about how one part of a system works, with the understanding that one part affects all others. In other words, the action of one affects the other directly or indirectly, as everyone is part of the system. Feedback guides us from derailing from our goals; it puts us back on track.
In essence, feedback is the lifeblood of any organization, institution or relationship, in that it is the exchange of information that allows people to know if the job or activities they are carrying out are going well or needs to be fine-tuned, upgraded, or redirected entirely. Without feedback, people are in the dark; they have no idea on how they stand with their boss, their peers, with their partners, or in terms of what is expected of them, and problems will only get worse as time passes. Feedback is the breakfast of champions and successful people.
Feedbacks are mainly done in the form of criticism, which is the act of considering the merits and demerits and to judge accordingly. Criticism implies fault-finding especially with methods or policies or intentions. Criticism, though appears negative to many and one of the most dreaded and put off, it is often very advantageous, as it gives opportunity for improvement, change and self evaluation. If we must live a life of constant success, accomplishment and fulfillment, we have to embrace criticism. When a person is never criticised, it is obviously because that person has nothing to offer. Most times, people criticising you unfairly, exhibiting the pull – down syndrome towards you, and even telling lies against you are only proving the point that you are of importance. Even Our Lord Jesus Christ was well- intentioned, yet He was killed by the same people He came for, and it is a known fact that majority of the Jews in present day Israel are yet to believe in the message of Jesus as the Messiah. So, do not be worried when you are criticised, even unjustly, keep your cool, one day the truth will definitely prevail.
In a sense, criticism is one of the most important responsibilities of any leader. Even at that, many leaders and those in supervisory positions have not been able to master properly the crucial art of criticism, as a result, they become sarcastic and this is highly damaging. In short, the emotional wellbeing of a couple depends on how well they air and handle their grievances and criticism, so also the success, effectiveness and efficiency of any organization or person. Clearly put, how criticism are given and received goes a long way in determining how satisfied people are with their relationships, with their work, with those to whom they are responsible and those they work with.
Criticisms are not supposed to be voiced or viewed in the home or work place or even on the media as personal attacks, rather, as views and complaints that can be acted upon. However, when it is loaded with sarcasm, contempt and disgust; it gives rise to defensiveness, evading of responsibilities, bitterness, excuses and passive resistance that originate from feeling unfairly treated and hated on the part of the recipient.
Any form of criticism that is not sensibly voiced, no matter the good intentions, becomes destructive criticism. Indeed, destructive criticism whether in the home, school or work place is a generalized statement that is delivered in a harsh, sarcastic, angry tone, providing neither a chance for response nor any suggestion of how to do things better. As a result, the recipient of the criticism becomes helpless, and embittered.
Many a time, we voice destructive criticism because of our ignorance of its devastating effect on the feelings of the recipient, who, as a result loses confidence, motivation and energy. Destructive criticism destroys morale. Harsh criticism makes those who receive it so demoralizing that they no longer try hard at their relationship, school work or job. We are too quick to criticize but slow to praise; there must be a balance. It should not seem like people only hear our criticism, only when they make mistake or are not doing well.
It is really disheartening when one sees in the media, most especially Face Book, how personalized and rude criticism has become. Respect is no longer given to elders and those in authority. In the name of Freedom of Speech, we have thrown caution to the wind, as a result, the message, even when well-intended, gets derailed and shrouded by disgustful and disrespectful impression we create with our destructive criticism.
Feedbacks in the form of criticism should not be delayed for a long period, as most problems are not sudden, they develop over time. When we hold back our criticism, it leads to frustration building up slowly and then one day it blows up.
The alternative to destructive criticism is positive criticism which is more helpful to the recipient. It has the opposite impact of destructive criticism: instead of creating helplessness, rebellion and anger, it holds out hope of doing better and succeeding.
A positive criticism focuses on what a person has done and can do instead of character attack. For every complaint or problem, there is a solution. It should point to a way to fix the problem. And it must be accompanied with a solution and suggestions. In that way, it becomes motivating to the recipient. The criticism may open doors to opportunities, possibilities and alternatives that the recipient never envisaged. Deficiencies that need attentions should be pointed out while suggestions as solutions to the problem should be pointed out as well.
Criticism should be specific. General statement should be avoided. Focus should be on the specifics, saying what the person did well and what was done poorly, and how it should be changed. Do not beat around the bush. This is very important in relationships. Say exactly what the problem is, what is wrong with it or how it makes you feel and what should be changed.
In airing our grievances, we should be sensitive; that is empathetic; this is very important. Consideration must be placed on the impact of what we say and how we say it to the person at the receiving end. We must exhibit empathy in our daily interaction with people. Giving feedback in the form of criticism in a hurtful fashion is destructive; instead of opening the way for correction, it creates defensiveness, resentment and malice.
Criticism is more appreciated and effective when it is done physically not done from a distance through letters, phone calls, or text messages except where it is not possible or applicable. As much as it is possible and fixable, criticism should be done face to face, as this creates the opportunity for the recipient of the criticism to respond or make some clarifications. And when criticism cannot be communicated in person, room for response should be created.
In as much as a critique should be properly done, those at the receiving end of it have to possess and portray some characters for the it to be profiting. First and foremost, one is to see it as valuable information about how to do better, not as a personal attack. Next is to avoid the temptation to be defensive instead of taking responsibility for mistakes. Lastly, people should have the right attitude towards criticism and not see the critic as enemy, rather should seek out opportunity to work with the critic to solve the problem.
All in all, we should be able to air our grievances with empathy, so that our criticism would be helpful to the receiver, as well as create an enabling and amiable atmosphere. It is only then that it would not be a source of friction and conflict, but a source of hope, motivation, and optimism, leading to a better and conflict free society.

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