Facing the Fires of Disagreement, Improvement, and Destructive Criticism

Destructive critics claim the moral high ground but their message is simple, do what I want. They pretend they want what’s best for others while they pursue what’s best for them.

Constructive critics want what’s best for others. In the past, friends told me my New York style sarcasm wasn’t always effective. A friend said, “Your sarcasm makes me uncomfortable.” His point came out on one of my trips to the West Coast a few years ago. It took a while but listening to criticism helped.

Not all criticism helps; some destroys.

Results of listening to destructive critics:

  1. Gun shy. You may pull back because stepping out invites criticism.
  2. Belligerence. You may plug your ears and close your eyes and aggressively push forward. I’ve chosen belligerence many times.
  3. Discouragement. You may hold anger in. Internalized anger always drains and discourages.


Distinguish between healthy disagreement, improvement, and destructive criticism.

  1. Disagreement – while sharing values and vision – is healthy. It usually centers on method and strategy.
  2. Accepting improvements is a humility issue. Can you listen to the voice of those who want to make you better?
  3. Destructive criticism comes from individuals who don’t share your values. Listen and you lose yourself.


  1. Love and respect those who disagree with love and respect.
  2. Destructive critics grow intolerant. Your “failure” becomes justification for escalating push back.
  3. Friends show tolerance even as they point out improvements.
  4. Those who pull back from you aren’t committed to you or your vision; those who jump in are.
  5. Fearing the voice of critics always distracts focus and drains passion. “If we are spending time and energy focused inwardly, debating incessantly, gossiping, and scheming, then we are certainly not aligned.” Brenner in Share the Sandbox.”
  6. Listening to destructive critics pulls you back.
  7. Listening to constructive critics propels you forward.
  8. Don’t trust those who criticize you behind your back.

How do you distinguish between healthy and unhealthy criticism?

What do you do to handle personal criticism?