The Truth Doesn't Have to Hurt

How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change

The Truth Doesn't Have to Hurt

Author: Deb Bright
Pub Date: October 2014
Print Edition: $17.95
Print ISBN: 9780814434819
Page Count: 256
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814434826

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The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.


Standing 10 meters above the earth, balancing on the edge of a

diving platform, I would listen to my coach yelling corrective

instructions about what I needed to do to make my next dive better.

Most people would consider his harsh admonishments mixed with

encouragement as criticism, but for me, it was direction, instruction,

and insight. Through training and a plentiful amount of no-holdsbarred

criticism from him, I was able to exceed even my own expectations

as a diver. Because I accepted his criticisms as helpful, I eventually

became ranked among the top ten women divers in the United States.

Unfortunately, my career in platform and springboard Olympic compe-

ition ended suddenly when doctors discovered retinal tears in both

my eyes. Had I continued, I was told, blindness would have been the

inevitable result.

Initially, I was devastated by the loss of my Olympic dreams. I was

determined, however, not to let my years of training experience go to

waste, so I used my knowledge in competitive diving as the foundation

for starting my career in the area of improving others’ individual

performance. In the years that followed, I emerged as a nationally

recognized expert in the fields of criticism, stress management,

communication skills, and leadership development.


Research initiated by our office, Bright Learning Enterprises, resulted

in a national study that ran from 2003 to 2010 and led to some signifi-

cant findings on the relationship between stress and criticism. These

findings were compiled and formed a workplace program we called

Strategies for Enhancing Performance Study and Program. The goal

was to understand the power of criticism and the best ways that individ-

uals could use criticism for positive change. The skills that were

introduced in the study have been proved to yield consistent positive

results among study participants.

I conducted other national studies on criticism with Simmons

Market Research Bureau, which led to my writing two books about

criticism. Now, I lecture around the world on the subject, and I have

designed licensed training programs for some of the most prestigious

organizations in the United States. Rather than calling myself an

executive coach or consultant, I jokingly refer to myself as an “insultant.”

Though being an Olympian was not in my stars, as it turned

out, I did gain a kind of blue-ribbon expertise when it came to the

three sides of criticism: giving criticism, receiving criticism, and the

silent destructor—self-criticism.

Findings from the Strategies for Enhancing Performance Study

show that being on the receiving end of criticism and having to give

criticism rank among the top ten most stress-producing challenges

in the workplace. When asked, most people declare that they are not

proficient at handling criticism. How about you? Can you think of

the last time you were criticized by your boss, your mate, your

friend, or maybe even your kids? How did you respond? Were you

hurt, upset, or even angry? When it comes to criticism, the awful

truth is that it takes only a few words or maybe just a perceived

frown of disapproval to create a drama that has the potential to jeopar-

dize or, in time, even destroy an important relationship. In fact,

through my research, it was found that more than any other form of

communication, criticism has the potential power to fatally ruin

relationships. Nevertheless, as diligently as we might try to avoid it,

criticism is inescapable and inevitably plays a major role in shaping

our lives. If we are to succeed as parents, employees, leaders, or play-

ers, it is critical that we learn how to deal with criticism as both givers

and receivers.

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