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Crushed by Criticism
Some people don’t just react to criticism about their performance, they get destroyed by it. This is usually because they have an intense need for approval, recognition, and praise from others.
When most team members receive well-deserved praise from a peer or leader, they get a warm feeling inside that invigorates their efforts. For others, however, the glow they get from praise consumes them, and their desire for more recognition becomes amplified. They begin to reconfigure their choices and relationships with the simple goal of acquiring the most praise possible.
Praise-hungry people face a myriad of issues, including an inflated idea of their contribution and skill. Most importantly, an excessive need for compliments warps a person’s ability to cope with criticism.
For those addicted to praise, constructive criticism is seen as a harmful and unjust attack. This makes them incredibly hard to manage for leaders. Any feedback offered to improve their performance is likely to result in demotivation, depression, or disbelief.
Becoming hooked on attention and praise from others is a trap anyone can fall into. Because we all enjoy the good feelings that occur when others praise us, we naturally seek more of it. Lines get crossed when the pleasure of receiving recognition becomes more important than the work or deeds we complete to attain it. Once the boundary has been violated, it is exceedingly hard not to become more dependent on praise than is healthy.
Ironically, fighting off a robust desire for praise is best accomplished by seeking more feedback from others, both good and bad. The only way to improve is by understanding what to fix and what to amplify.
Feedback, not praise, is the pathway to enhance your skills. When we focus on praise at the exclusion of candid feedback, we feed the ego, but starve future achievement. Finding a healthy balance between seeking praise and criticism gives us the ability to remain objective about our strengths and weaknesses.
Anytime well-intentioned criticism tastes like poison, we should hear a warning alarm. When negative feedback frequently causes pain, we are likely in the danger zone of praise addiction. The antidote is not less criticism, but more of it. Remember, if you don’t live for praise, you won’t be crushed by criticism.