In our ardent journey to diminish or stop bullying, we may have the tendency to see any critical feedback as bullying. Knowing the difference between criticism and bullying is helping in seeing things differently and handling the situation better.
There are four types of criticism:
Constructive – useful feedback that help someone improve
A proverb says: “A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful.”
Destructive – feedback with malicious intentions, imposing lower self-esteem that leads to anger or hostility
Factual – pointing out right/wrong facts
Evaluative – pointing out right/wrong opinions (judging) based on the speaker’s values that may be similar or superior to the criticized person
Criticism generally is not bullying, but ongoing and assiduous negative criticism towards an individual, which involves an apparent power disparity and creates a hostile environment (destructive criticism), amounts to bullying. As a form of interpersonal aggression, bullying is seriously damaging not only the victims, but also the bystanders. Using constructive criticism to one’s advantage as a method of professional and personal growth is necessary. Well-intended constructive criticism can make a person, bullying can break a person; the difference between them lies in tactics.
How badly we take the criticism depends on how badly the criticism is delivered. If the delivery of criticism makes the receivers feeling hurt, it is unlikely that they would change or even understand the arguments or another point of view. Criticism is personal because it targets products of human beings (ideas, opinions, behaviors, attitudes). Hearing what we need to hear, not what we want to hear may sting sometimes, but it should be a source of revelation for us. Delivering constructive criticism as conveying suggestions in a familiar ambiance, as a friendly conversation, thanking the receiver for allowing sharing our point of view makes a huge difference. However, sometimes in school and sports the feedback is delivered by yelling. This is not bullying, it is not meant to be an abuse or personal attack, but a form of encouragement. Moreover, in some cultures, speakers have higher pitch of voice, which might be interpreted as speaking too loud or shouting.
No matter how many critical feedbacks we get, we cannot always foresee how we would react/respond, so, before judging we need to consider the situation and the source, their intentions, and their culture. Constructive criticism has the power to push people to bend their limits and reach unimaginable success. Bullying can send people over the edge and many end up suicidal.