Derision is a Decision

Next time you think about making a negative comment (online or in-person), consider your motivation. Is your criticism well thought out and intended to benefit? It could be a defensive reaction, an attempt to improve others’ perception of you or to bully someone into your bias by ridiculing them.

Rajesh Setty said sometimes for smart people…

 Criticizing others was the side-effect of their constant need for approval.

I think it is helpful to acknowledge this, but also to realize it is a decision. We have a choice to be more thoughtful in our criticism. Or perhaps we need less criticism and more critique.

  • Criticism finds fault/Critique looks at structure
  • Criticism looks for what’s lacking/Critique finds what’s working
  • Criticism condemns what it doesn’t understand/Critique asks for clarification
  • Criticism is spoken with a cruel wit and sarcastic tongue/Critique’s voice is kind, honest, and objective
  • Criticism is negative/Critique is positive (even about what isn’t working)
  • Criticism is vague and general/Critique is concrete and specific
  • Criticism has no sense of humor/Critique insists on laughter, too
  • Criticism looks for flaws in the writer as well as the writing/Critique addresses only what is on the page

Taken from Writing Alone, Writing Together; A Guide for Writers and Writing Groups by Judy Reeves
(hat tip to Jen at Scribe’s Alley, emphasis mine)

I think the world could use more kindness, honesty and objectivity. How about you?


A friend who reads the blog called to discuss this topic. He mentioned how we will feel critical of ourselves and want to bring others down to our own level of self-loathing. Also, after discussing society’s acceptance of negative criticism (Big Brother on CBS, road rage, etc.), he shared a scripture that gets at the point.

2 Corinthians 10:12 (The Message)

We’re not, understand, putting ourselves in a league with those who boast that they’re our superiors. We wouldn’t dare do that. But in all this comparing and grading and competing, they quite miss the point.

Thanks Rob!

Dustin Staiger is a business and marketing coach in Houston, TX. He addresses team and individual effectiveness, marketing, communications and creativity for smaller, entrepreneurial organizations as well as large enterprises.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Join the conversation...

2 thoughts on “Derision is a Decision

  1. I began looking at comments about creativity and being clever when your Blog, Dustin, appeared. Finding that interesting, I went to Ideas vs Opinions and wound up here at Derision is a Decision with a section by, Reeves, on Critique and Criticism.
    Each of the ideas expressed, or comparisons made in every section I visited were rather erudite. Thank you for the insight.
    An educator for over 40-years I thought from reading the Critique and criticism definitions/explanations about something I’ve shared in college classes and before that as an educator in middle and elementary schools.
    I share it now with you: “Constructive Criticism is an oxymoron, or that’s how I see it. You build-up to tear down, you build to destroy..,.,how ultimately unkind, unhelpful, damaging…in a manner-of-speaking…a negative to make the deliverer of the information feel better about him/herself.This is a momentary thing. Put downs always are, and live by one rule ‘No Put Downs…Only Lift Ups!” (Schiering, M. 1976)
    Suggestion: Think about how to say something in a positive way, even if it’s a negative or an area needed for improvement, readdress it in your mind to prevent character or personal opinion-deflation of the recipient of your comments when you actually speak. “Practice the six international traits of a person of good character and realize that if you are criticizing someone else you are probably doing this first to yourself, because you can only give to another that which you first have for you. (<when my son was 16 he taught me that.)
    In my book, I relate this to include respect for yourself = you can give it to another if you have it for you, Also there are these traits that can be given if you have them first for you: kindness, love, being trustworthy, fair, responsible, caring. ". (Schiering, M. 1998; 2011). Thank you for your enlightening Blog, Dustin.

  2. Marjorie,

    Thank you for an incredibly thoughtful comment. I especially appreciate your insight that when we criticize, we are doing it first to ourselves. So true. Thanks for adding some incredible value to the conversation. I hope to hear more from you in the future.