Most of these “Leadership Proverbs” I’ve just picked up, absorbed and imbibed by some process of osmosis along the way and don’t know exactly whom they originated from. But when I know I’ll make reference, and when I don’t it’s not that I’m ungrateful or that I want to appear like a genius. It’s genuinely that I can’t remember. So if I’ve flogged something from you let me know and I’ll happily acknowledge it.
This insight comes courtesy of Charles Spurgeon.
People Who Praise You are Probably Just as Mistaken as Those Who Criticise You
Everyone loves being praised. And criticism always has the potential to be hurtful, and more often than not it is. Any praise that comes our way we are more than happy to receive and cherish, but rarely is this the case with criticism. With criticism we are much more discerning; “Are they right? They’re probably not but is there a kernel of truth? No probably not.” The way we normally treat praise and criticism is skewed towards praise and away from criticism.
This is normally a defence mechanism. As a leader you encounter far more criticism than you do praise. (Or if you don’t that’s probably because you’ve trained people to not tell the criticism directly to you, but that just means they’re probably telling it to everyone but you.) When people are happy they’re normally happy just to cruise along and you don’t hear from them. But when something upsets them or they aren’t happy about something they let you know. And so normally there’s more complaining than praising. And that’s to be expected and is probably normal.
The problem is that so as to cope with this unbalanced volume of feedback we correspondingly skew our reception towards receiving praise, because it’s relatively so rare. And so we become much less discerning of praise than we do of criticism.
And all this is merely a symptom of our own love of self and our lack of servant-hearted other-person centeredness. We need to fight our own curiosity and be indifferent to what other people think of us.
And the reason is because we’re probably right about our critics and wrong about our supporters. Our critics don’t have all the info, they don’t understand all the factors and other impinging circumstances. That’s probably true. But it’s also true of our supporters and the things they praise us about. They don’t know all the info, they don’t understand all the factors and other impinging circumstances.
People who praise you are probably just as mistaken as those who criticise you.
Here’s how Spurgeon puts it:
“Renounce the love of self. Judge it to be a small matter what men think or say of you, and care only of their treatment of your Lord.”
CH Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students