Criticism – Give as little as possible

Recently, I stumbled upon a site – BrainPickings – which publishes highly thought-provoking articles in the writing, philosophy, history, art and creativity space. (I recommend bookmarking or subscribing if any of these topics interest you).

I know I have been away from my blog for quite a while – almost close to two years. And it already shows in how sluggish are the thoughts that are forming in my head. So many ideas, thoughts and drafts get lost in the wind before they can become words… but before you criticize me for being away for so long, read below. 🙂

Criticism is one such “commodity” that people are always most generous when giving. Nobody likes to take it. Therefore, more often than not, people spend a lot of time and energy to criticize, which goes to a waste (even if their intentions are in the right place).

Maria wrote about Daniel Dennet‘s views on criticizing with kindness on BrainPickings. Dennet says, to compose a successful critical commentary:

  1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.
  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

While these are excellent points, I presume there needs be another “guideline” – the zero-th rule:

0. You should try to find out if you have a reputation strong enough with the subject that allows for your criticism to be taken constructively. If not, whatever you say will be added as noise to the already-noisy world we live in.

Thus, when criticizing, give as little as possible; or none at all.

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