Critical about Criticism

Last week I read a blogpost, Criticism the unwanted mentor, that really got me thinking.

I have that more often of course, but this one did not only make me think, it also made me analyse my own thinking.

The post itself was very interesting but apart from that, it made me want to comment. And I actually did.

Which is not that common. I often feel like commenting but just as often decide not to. There are several reasons for not commenting, but the main reason is that I can not get my opinion into clear wording.

In this case I commented immediately after my reading, and got thinking just later on. Which was more common for me in my off line life, as there I always act or have an opinion before I think.

But when it comes to writing, it takes a lot of time to find the right words. And the result is that I do not post a comment often, just think about it, form an opinion, but do not share it.

Well, anyway this time I did. And after that it got me thinking why that was. I went back to the post to see what I wrote and analysed my reaction.

I think there is a very fine line between criticism, feedback and judging. They all have their place, but I am not so sure criticising and judging another person is of much use as only to get the other defensive.

Personally I think it often says more about the one who is giving it, then the one receiving it.

Feedback is great, but still only if the situation is suitable for that (parents/children, teacher/pupil or if someone asks for it).

If it is about the actions (or lack there of) by others that bother you, the only way to do it (in my very personal opinion) is to say what are the problems you yourself have with that behaviour.

But that does not mean that criticism is not important. I think it really is, but never on a personal level, always purely about ideas. And the only way to criticise those ideas with others, is if you totally respect each other.

Just my view at this moment.

First thing that I noticed was that I did react from another perspective than the post was saying. The overall intention of that post was: ‘seeing the value if you get critisiced’. And my response was in general: ‘never criticise another person’.

The second thing I noticed was that I was splitting hair. I differentiated between criticism, feedback and judgement. So I thought, is it really that different to judge, give feedback or criticise?

But actually I think it is.

I really think the differences are essential. But often one word is used where someone else would mean another. If I read back my reaction, I actually say that no one should criticise another person. But do I really think that?

And indeed I do. But I think each criticism, feedback and judging has its place.


Now to start with the judging, I think it is just fine to judge. We can judge whatever and whoever we like. Actually it is what we do all the time, judge by our first impression and take all kind of decisions based on that. And many times it hardly is any conscious judgement. It is often just based on our previous understanding of the world.

But that does not mean we can throw that judgement on to the other. I think judgement needs a strong filter before it gets public so to speak. A conscious filter that differentiates our own prejudice. Any prejudice.


As to feedback I see it as a very important tool. But even if I think it is different from criticism, I still do not think it has to be given just like that. In a teacher/pupil setting it is very necessary. And there might be many others like in the workplace. Or if someone asks for feedback.

But I think even feedback needs a filter. Not just whatever comes to mind (unless the other asks for that) but filter our own prejudice again.

And besides that, I think it needs a certain setting. A setting with cultural determined rules that provide a certain ‘playground’.


What I would call criticism is a very important factor, but I think there is actually no circumstance that anyone should criticise another person.

I think criticism has to do with analysing and improving. And there is no other person who can see what exactly needs to be improved at that specific moment in time.

We all might think we do know, but in many cases we let our own judgement of how things should be, get in the way.

There might be someone like in psycho analysis that goes certain steps along, but in the end it is the person itself who has to do the criticising.


But I think criticism is very essential in another way. It is an important factor in discussions. But only if it is used in discussing ideas.

And then it is essential. Because without critical analysing we can only get so far. We never get to the bottom of things.

As I see it, criticism is only possible when people who participate in the discussion know themselves and respect the other. And if they do not respect each other, there is no way of criticising and as a result no way of really discussing.

As for using my basic model of Integral and the Zodiac, I would place the concepts as follows:

6. Criticism

7. Feedback

9. Judging

Again, just my view at this moment…


Critical about criticism


  1. When I write my post about criticism I have three interpretations on my mind (feedback, judging and negative criticism), and I have incorporate them all in the concept of criticism. When we are being criticized, we make an analysis as to what is the motive behind. Commonly, we see it as an attack to our person, and thus we react irresponsibly.

    Feedback and judgment should be differentiated from criticism, but the common attitude of many is to see them as one. And so I have made a composition that will make my readers see the true premise behind each criticism.

    I have certainly learned something here. :-)

  2. Yes, I also think it is mainly seen as one. But for my own understanding, I found it important to differentiate the three. But I kind of got away from your point in the original post about how to deal with criticism.

    Which was actually a much better point, because that is what someone can choose. You can influence how to react to something that happens, including receiving criticism. And not so much on what others do.

    But I was kind of looking at it in a more general way, especially because in some cases I just love it if criticism is possible. Especially when discussing certain complicated ideas, which makes it necessary to be able to criticise many points.

    And when that is possible in a really respectful way, I just love it.

    I have also learned a great deal from your post, all of those I read from you actually. You really have a way of deep and thoughtful writing, which makes me think further.

  3. One does takes feedback from known & reliable sources.
    Hence feedback is from a known community.

    Judgement is at a higher relam, where acts are weighed in a context of time & environment.

    Criticism is merely finding a fault, which if circumspectly viewed would better lives. Should you say positively criticism becomes encouragement. How one responds to criticism / encouragement is important!

    1. Very interesting comment, which really got me thinking. Especially your remark about positive criticism and if that would be encouragement.

      Personally I don’t think so. Although I think that encouragement is very important, I do think it has a different focus. It has to do with selfesteem of which the development needs encouragement, but not in the form of (even positive) criticism.

      Now I think about it, I guess it has to do with the difference between ‘who I am’ and ‘what I do’. The first needs acceptence and encouragement, but the second might need criticism in some form and at some point.

      I have to think this through a bit further, because I can not quite get in in the right words. But somehow, I feel it is an essential difference.

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