cynicism vs. criticism

Among friends, in school or in business, if we dare to explore a new theory or develop an original product, chances are we’ll be faced with some form of feedback. Some of it inevitably will be negative. This is nothing new. In fact, every groundbreaking notion has been met with some measure of scorn, resistance or doubt.

Reject Cynicism and Improve Your Ideas -

When we learn to differentiate the feedback that is cynical from that which is constructively critical, we can reject the former and embrace the latter to turn our original ideas into stronger, more sound ones.

Cynicism is a form of doubt in the sincerity of the goodness of people’s intentions or contributions. A cynic’s attitude is rooted in a general distrust toward individuals, institutions, authority or society in general. The problem with cynics is that, since they mistrust most information, because it challenges their personal beliefs, they tend to persistent in their assertions even when presented with irrefutable fact.

In contrast to cynicism, constructive criticism, while also a form of doubt, is based on knowledge rather than world-view. We can make a choice to look at it not as an attack on ourselves, but rather as a way of exploring the different sides of a problem or issue. It can shed new light on our notions and serve as a way to test the meaning and validity of the concepts we propose.

When we promote discussion of ideas, we have an opportunity to make the idea stronger, even if the idea morphs a bit. That’s why it’s important to develop the essential skill of learning how to reject cynicism and embrace constructive criticism. Author F. Scott Fitzgerald faced plenty of criticism about the controversial subject matter he explored in his books, yet he welcomed it, saying “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

Here are a couple of techniques to help you work toward embracing constructive criticism in order to strengthen your ideas:

  • Consider the source. If the person expressing doubt has a cynical viewpoint with nothing constructive to offer, it’s fine to dismiss her viewpoint. However, if her training and track record provide her with a platform to make assertions that are bold, or even shocking, perhaps the even so much as a rant is worth a listen.

  • Keep your ego in check. By letting fear or hurt feelings get in the way of seeing the value in common sense and facts, we can miss out on the opportunity to correct flaws in our thinking

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