Why Do We Hate Constructive Criticism and Adverse Opinions?
Sri Lankans are used to banding together to support someone, to trash someone or to stand on the side of the majority feeling smug and important. Yet very few would ever look at criticism or an adverse opinion in a healthy manner. Perhaps this stems from our innate herd mentality – no one wants to be the lone ranger, standing out for not conforming, for thinking different or for agreeing against the grain.
We want acceptance. We want to feel included. And so we conform. And woe betide anyone who goes against what we believe in (or so it seems). One of the things in the corporate world is this notion of ‘feedback’ which is technically constructive criticism given in a palatable manner to individuals so that they don’t’ get their back up. How successful it is depends on the individuals giving it, receiving it and the structure of the company. Point is that constructive criticism is healthy. Alternate opinions are good. They open our eyes to things we don’t want to hear or see but more often than not, it’s useful.
In a race, if your competition is terrible, your win is mediocre. The stronger your competition, the better you have to be to win. It makes you up your game. Criticism does the same. Many of us don’t want to hear alternate stories, alternate histories to what we have been taught or what we choose to believe. We like one version – simple, easy to weaponise and easy to have an ‘us’ vs ‘them’ attitude. Life is sadly never simple. And looking at complex matters with a simplistic point of view is akin to a horse running in a field with blinkers on. They will only see one thing.
Balance is important. And balance comes from opposing sides. Positives and negatives. Yin and Yang. You cannot have too much of a good thing and you cannot have too much of a bad thing. It works in harmony. But we seldom learn this. From fairytales to action movies (some like the movie Joker are showing how people turn out to be the way they are and so you don’t ‘hate’ them as much) we are taught to look at the world as black and white. Good and evil. Us and them. And anything – criticism, adverse opinion – is not encouraged.
In religions, we have come to the point where we venerate the servant of god and not god and we attack those who don’t do the same. Jesus criticized the temple and religious leaders. The Buddha chose an alternative path to life. So if we are to follow such individuals, we need to be objective too. We need to criticize and call out what’s unjust and wrong. Not be blinded by ritual and herd instincts.
Even in government – a healthy opposition is required to keep the ruling party in check. You need to criticize and call out people and question. A healthy environment encourages questioning and dealing with diversity. A herd will only go as far as it follows its leader – to hell even. Hence we should not blindly follow and take offense when someone tells us something we don’t like to hear.
Today social media is the mud throwing platform for all individuals of all social and economic classes. It’s appalling how people think it’s ok to gang up on people because they don’t agree with them – these are classic behaviour traits of bullies. A bully is not a happy person. A bully needs psychological help.
We have allowed ourselves to become a gang of bullies. To hate a different point of view. Our lives would be so much better if we learned tolerance and acceptance which would be far more productive in the long run.
We can also learn to ‘agree to disagree’. It means there’s mutual respect for opposing views while not subscribing to them. My mother taught me this phrase when I used to have arguments at home as a teenager. Made perfect sense then and still does today.