It must be said, that I’m really really bad at receiving criticism, really bad. Whenever I would get essays back at Uni, if the mark wasn’t particularly good, I would bristle at the thought of reading the feedback. Either that or I would give the feedback a cursory look and then banish it from sight and mind, unfortunately I have that annoying trait of taking criticism personally. This stems from some less than pleasant schooldays where I would take some extremely personal criticism, many of the soundbites have faded over time, but they still occasionally replay themselves in my more maudlin reflective states.
However, despite such melodrama, I am learning to take useful criticism in the manner which it is intended. Going back to the university feedback, if I was unable or unwilling to see my faults (generally ranging from erratic punctuation to lack of structure, presentation was my achilles heel) then how would I be able to improve as an academic or as a writer? Criticism, when delivered in a constructive and well-meaning manner can sometimes be the most effective (if slightly bitter) tasting pill for us to swallow. It allows us to see our working faults and go about setting them right, constructive criticism from a fresh pair of eyes can be the difference between perhaps a good piece of work and a great piece of work.
Where I think ‘honesty’ is less welcome is from the ‘just telling it like it is’ school, (or the ‘Katie Hopkins’ school of criticism) which is becoming increasingly prevalent and increasingly repellent. The ‘JTILI’ school of criticism essentially is people forcefully projecting their world view onto everybody else and is usually criticism ad hominem rather than anything which can enable people to improve themselves either professionally or personally. ‘JTILI’s’ form of ‘brutal honesty’ seems to me to based more around expressing their own subjective opinions/dislike of certain sections of society rather than to help people improve. This brand of humiliation may help some people, but I would say it damages many more!
So yeah, getting back on track, I would prefer it if people treated me with frank and open honesty, I am willing to admit I am can be dense enough to ignore subtle hints. May as well give it to me straight so I can immediately begin working on rectifying my faults. Best example of this is from final year at Uni, in the first half of final year I had one or two really shockingly poor results (52 and 60/62?% respectively). I decided to really pore over the feedback and really look at the criticism of my tutors. Once I knew where my faults were (structure and punctuation errors, needed a proof-read or two) I was able to act upon them, with my hard work paying off in my marks for the second half of the year (My dissertation: 73%, 72% and 64%.)
Sometimes you just have to absorb the blow of naked honesty, as you then know how to dodge the second one.