Everyone has an opinion. It seems to be accentuated in the church. People give their time and resources and they’re passionate about what happens in your organization. And you want it that way. You would rather have them fired up and passionate than lethargic and uninterested. So what do you do when their passion turns into criticism of you, your team, or something you’ve created?
- Find the kernel of truth. There are two kinds of criticism; constructive and destructive. Destructive criticism you should completely ignore, move on, and possibly deal with in other ways. Constructive criticism can be helpful, but a lot of time is still hard to hear. Discipline yourself to reflect back on the conversation and look for the kernels of truth. Whether it’s a hallway conversation, email, or someone walking by the front of house booth, make sure you search for ways that the criticism can make you better.
- Ask questions first. Before you defend yourself against criticism, ask questions. Sometimes criticism just comes from misunderstanding. Asking questions can help you understand where the criticism is coming from. Questions also help lower the defenses of the critic. They see you as someone who really does want to understand, and that can turn a critic into an ally.
- Don’t try to be “right.” Try to find the right outcome for the situation instead of just trying to show why your opinion is right. Being right only makes you look better. The right outcome makes the whole organization better.
- Keep emotions in check. An emotional reaction to criticism immediately communicates that you’re not interested in the perspective of the other person. As soon as you put up your defenses the other person will put up theirs and you’ll get nowhere. Staying positive, cordial, and helpful shows others that you’re secure and mature enough to hear them out.
- Know who’s opinions really count. I would say in my job I only serve two opinions. My Lead Pastor and our Executive Pastor who is my supervisor. (I assume it goes without saying we’re seeking God in everything we do as a church) Many times when I hear constructive criticism I’ll bounce it off of them to see what they think. But ultimately my job is to continue to align my team with the vision of the church as a whole. Many people have good thoughts and opinions about what we do, but if they don’t align with our vision, they’re not worth dwelling on.
- Open yourself to feedback. Find healthy ways to get feedback from places you don’t normally receive it. The more feedback you get the easier it is to receive it. If you never get feedback it feels like a punch in the gut when you do. Don’t, however, allow critics to take up a lot of your time. Always dwelling on the past will never move you forward. Spend the majority of your time on the future.