Do you want to know the secret of winning an argument, making friends, and having a more positive impact on society? Stop being critical. Don’t believe me? Read on to know the reasons you should stop giving criticism.
Dale Carnegie is perhaps one of the most reputable authorities in human relations. His all-time best-selling book, How to Win Friends and Influence Others have sold millions of copies worldwide and have been translated into hundreds of languages.
In Carnegie’s famous book, chapter 1 opens with the title, “If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive,” he discusses the importance of not criticizing other people.
In this post, let me give you five reasons you should not criticize others according to Dale Carnegie.
Reason no. 1: People would rather blame others than accept responsibility
It is common to see how many people would rather play the victim and blame others for the wrong things they have done.
Take for example “Two Gun” Crowley, one of New York’s most infamous criminal wrote in his dying statement, “Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one – one that would do nobody harm.”
It is hard to believe how a hardened murderer who will kill without any hesitation would be able to write that.
How about Al Capone, America’s deadliest Public Enemy? He wrote, “I have spent the best years of my life giving people the lighter pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the existence of a hunted man.”
Now, this kind of thinking isn’t just for criminals, but rather it is common to every man from all walks of life.
Carnegie gave these examples in his book to show you that human nature would naturally defend themselves and do their best to justify their actions no matter how wrong they are.
When you criticize other people, Carnegie wrote, “it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”
So, when you criticize others, instead of winning them over to your side, you will cause them to think of the million ways to prove you are wrong, instead of accepting your criticism. Criticized people would rather criticize and condemn back.
Reason no. 2: Criticism prevents you from seeing other people’s perspective
Criticism has its way of making people blind of what others are going through. Since understanding other people and seeking their side of the story involve great effort, people tend to take the easy way and criticize right away.
One story that was told in the book of Carnegie is the time when General Meade fought the Battle of Gettysburg. On that day, Meade could have easily captured Lee, the enemy’s general. So, Lincoln commanded Meade to move forward and completely destroy Lee’s army.
The problem was Meade didn’t follow Lincoln’s command. He did the opposite. As a result, Lee was able to escape.
This made Lincoln furious. Lincoln already wrote a letter of condemnation of the acts of Meade. However, Lincoln never sent the letter.
There was a great possibility that the reason Lincoln didn’t send the letter is that he saw the perspective of Meade. The situation could have been different from where he comfortably sits in the White House to what Meade had witnessed in the battlefield.
If Lincoln would have been in the battle, he could have seen rivers of blood, heard the screams of wounded soldiers and the deafening noise of guns and canons, and smelled the stench of death all around.
Perhaps, Lincoln could have thought that yes, the letter would make him feel better, but it will only make Meade justify himself and may even quit from being a great commander.
Now, you don’t normally see other people’s perspective if you are quick to blame and criticize. Thus, before you open your mouth and let the stinging and hurtful words fly, stop and think. You could have done the same thing if you are in the same situation.
Reason no. 3: Criticism makes you blind of your own faults
Confucius once said, “Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbor’s roof when your own doorstep is unclean.”
It is so easy to point out the fault of others and criticize them. The problem is that most often than not, we are guilty of the same mistakes. Sometimes, even if you don’t have the same problem, you have problems in other areas of your life.
We all make mistakes, but we just do it in different ways.
Thus, it would be good to be relentless to our own faults, and be understanding and loving to the faults of others. We also have our own faults and do mistakes. Criticism makes you think that you are better than others when in fact, your hands are as dirty as theirs.
Before you criticize, think about how fragile you are as well. Identify and correct your own faults first.
Reason no. 4: Humans are not creatures of logic
In Carnegie’s book, he wrote, “When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.”
No matter how certain you are or how correct you are in your criticism, people won’t listen to you. Why? Because they are humans who would defend themselves when their ego and pride are hurt.
Instead of appealing to logic, if you want to convince people to accept your point of view, it would be a good idea to appeal to their emotions.
Have you ever noticed how people resent hearing the things where they are wrong? Criticism can surely bring the message across and bring faults in people’s attention. However, it will only make you feel good, but not the one being criticized. The worse thing here is that sometimes, hurt feelings endure for many months, years, and even until death.
Yes, it might feel good to indulge in even a little criticism, but you will pay a high price for it – a price you might not be willing to pay.
Reason no. 5: Criticism makes you unforgiving
Benjamin Franklin is so diplomatic and skilled in communication that he was made the American Ambassador to France. His secret to a successful career is this: “I will speak ill of no man and speak all the good I know of everybody.”
That’s the complete opposite of being critical of other people. You become easily angered, offended, and unforgiving.
Carnegie mentioned in his book:
“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”
Carlyle added, “A great man shows his greatness by the way he treats little men.”
If you avoid being critical, you become more forgiving because you try to understand people first. You try to see things through their lens.
You might have heard about the story of Bob Hoover, a famous test pilot and air show performer. Once, he was flying his airplane and the two engines suddenly stopped. He managed to land the plane enough for him and the crew to survive. However, the plane is badly damaged and could hardly be of good use.
Hoover discovered that his plane was fueled with jet fuel instead of gasoline. You can just imagine his great fury and indignation to the person who had serviced his airplane.
However, when he met the young man who is already sick with agony because of the mistake he has done, he simply put his big arm around the man’s shoulder. He said, “To show you I’m sure that you’ll never do this again, I want you to service my F-51 tomorrow.”
Hoover didn’t criticize, but rather he gave the young man a second chance. Hoover became more forgiving when he decided not to criticize.
Indeed, criticism can break relationships, but being forgiving can repair mistakes and encourage others to become better next time.
To criticize or be understanding?
The first principle laid out in Carnegie’s book is “Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.”
In the first chapter, you would learn why criticism can ignite more arguments. It has been observed that most criticisms invariably end up to futility.
So, why criticize when you know this will not give you any good? Therefore, be more understanding, forgiving, and kind. Things are better handled with love rather than criticism.
I hope you find this blog helpful as much as I do. One of my most favorite books is Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. I just discussed to you what I learned from Chapter 1. If you want to know how to be good with interacting with people, achieve more success, and create a more positive impact in your society, then this book is definitely for you.