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Sofia Hashi | Fulcrum Staff

As a writer, it may seem strange to announce that I used to hate criticism. My job requires my editors to scour my articles for mistakes, a process that used to make me cringe. Until recently, I used to scan my emails to see if there was a disgruntled reader, or worse, an anonymous commentator sending scathing remarks about an article I’d penned. After having been criticized relentlessly and having received backlash for certain articles I’ve written—or not written—I’ve learned to deal with and accept criticism, especially if it’s constructive. And for that, I’m grateful.

However, our society might not take the same stance when it comes to criticism. A quick Google search on the topic scores thousands of hits with articles called, “How to take criticism” and “How to know the difference between constructive and hurtful criticism,” appearing by the dozens. Clearly, we could all use some help in the department.

Margaret Heffernan, the former CEO of five businesses, recently gave a TEDx talk in which she said people prefer to associate with like-minded people who don’t pose a threat and only confirm our beliefs instead of challenging them. She suggested that “A fantastic model of collaboration [is] thinking partners who aren’t echo chambers.” A world void of this type of constructive criticism and difference in opinion only continues to stunt our own personal growth.

We might follow the old adage “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all” a little too closely. While certainly no one wants to cause harm to another person, rebuttals and conflict are necessary to resolving issues and growing. At times it may seem like the phrase “constructive criticism” has completely left our vocabulary.

What’s wrong with a little criticism? Trust me, I do understand it can be hard to swallow a critique. This very article took more than the usual rewrite to be perfected. As much as I don’t particularly love criticism, I do know it’s important.

Without criticism, we’d never grow. It’s an obvious statement, but somehow we still tend to cringe when someone has anything unpleasant to say. Words can assault us in ways that seem to almost physically hurt at times, but constructive criticism allows us to see things from another perspective and evaluate our own choices. Negating other people’s opinions as superfluous and invalidating them only does us a disservice.

Don’t lie, don’t steal, be kind. Take criticism well. It’s right up there on the list of major life lessons. No less important a skill is giving criticism well. Dishing it out and taking it should be approached with equal attention and care. And when you’re dishing it, be respectful. We all know what it feels like to be on the receiving end.

Sure, if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything. If your intent is to harm, then shut your trap. But if you’ve got something important to say, then say it! Don’t agree with the point your professor made? Then say so. Don’t like the budget the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa set up for the upcoming year? Speak up. Conversely, if someone offers you some pointers, don’t turn your head away. We live in the age of opinions, and sometimes a dose of constructive criticism might be just what we need.