Why You Should Stop Answering Your Critics

Over the past ten years, I have learned a powerful life-changing leadership lesson. Here it is:

Often, a person just needs to be heard.

When a person comes to you and tells you that you are wrong, shares his point of view, or criticizes something that you have done, you don’t necessarily need to dialogue or debate. Often, a person just needs to be heard. In fact, I have found that this principle applies more often than not.

In my 20’s and 30’s, I had not yet learned this lesson. When criticized I often responded by debating or attempting to articulate my point of view. Over time, I realized that doing this seldom changed the other person’s mind. In fact, the dialogue was often unnecessary and ineffective. The person bringing critique was not looking for me to defend myself or even to present an alternate point of view.

Why? Often, a person just needs to be heard. Learning this valuable lesson will save you thousands of hours of arguing and conflict over a lifetime. Applying this lesson will improve your relationships.

Next time a person comes to you with a critique or an opinion consider:

  • Listening attentively to the person’s point of view
  • Not debating with your alternate point of view
  • Committing to consider the point of view or critique
  • Saying to the person “Thank you for your input. I will commit to reflect on it.”
  • Considering it later if necessary
  • Moving forward knowing that the person has now been heard

So what should you do after listening? Sometimes nothing. That’s the point. Often, Listening is enough.

  • I am not saying you should ignore a person. To the contrary, I am saying that you should genuinely listen to the person.
  • I am not saying that you should run over a person. I am saying that you don’t need to argue with everyone.
  • I am not saying that you should not listen to wise counsel. Let wisdom guide you, listen and reflect.

By the way, this principle does not only apply to critique. Good listeners are nearly obsolete. People need to be heard. Your kids need to be heard. Your spouse needs to be heard.

Perhaps we need to talk much less and listen much more.


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