The 5 secrets of Buddhism to criticize in a positive way

Who I am
Robert Maurer

"The criticism will not be pleasant, but it is necessary," said Winston Churchill. Timely criticism can avoid greater evils and plant the seed for enriching change. But criticism born of ignorance, envy or hatred can cause wounds that take a long time to heal.

Buddhist philosophy also expresses itself in this regard. While it emphasizes the importance of developing a compassionate attitude and not judging others, it also warns us that there are times when pleasant words don't help much and criticism needs to be made that help people correct their mistakes and find their way back.

The book The Buddha's Teachings on Social and Communal Harmony, an anthology of Bhikkhu Bodhi's Pali Canon, includes Buddha's advice to monks. It warns us that "our speech may be opportune or inopportune, true or false, kind or harsh, connected with good or harm, done by a mind of loving-kindness or with internal hatred", so it is important to be more aware of our own. words

In chapter IV, Buddha addresses the discourse by explaining when it is necessary to praise and when it is appropriate to criticize, also indicating how we can assertively correct a person. Then mention the five precepts we must follow to make a positive criticism.

The 5 precepts of the Buddha to criticize correctly

1. That criticism comes from the truth

A criticism makes no sense if it is made under a false premise. Words based on lies or assumptions have no value and often only serve to generate chaos and confusion. Positive criticism, on the other hand, must start with honesty. This means that before we criticize we must ask ourselves if we are objective enough.

According to Buddhism, we come to the truth when we develop the right perspective, which involves the elimination of our value judgments, expectations and attachments. This implies that we must make sure that our criticism is not selfishly motivated, that it does not arise from our frustrated expectations or that it is not an attempt to manipulate through guilt.

2. Choose the right time

“Speak at the right time, don't choose an inopportune moment,” says a Buddhist phrase from the Pali Canon. Criticism, however positive and constructive, often triggers negative reactions as it can be seen as an attack on the ego. To mitigate its impact, we need to be smart enough to pick the right time.

If a person is angry or frustrated, our criticisms are likely to fail, simply because these emotions prevent them from thinking clearly. Likewise, if you are having a hard time, criticism can become a very difficult additional burden to manage. Therefore, for a criticism to be useful, it must be done at the right time.

3. Criticize with kindness

Telling the truth does not mean committing sincericide by shooting the first thing that crosses our minds without thinking about the repercussions it will have on others. Words can hurt, even if they are true. This means that to make a positive criticism we must start from the deepest empathy, with sensitivity and tact.

The most difficult criticism, if done delicately, not only mitigates but is also more constructive. When we criticize with kindness and delicacy, we break down the emotional walls that criticisms often bounce off, creating fertile ground for them to thrive and truly lead to positive change.

4. Let the criticism benefit the other

Positive criticism is one that builds and brings value. Negative criticism, on the other hand, harms people and generates distances that are difficult to bridge. Therefore, it is important that before we criticize, we think about how our words can be beneficial to the other person, how they can help them improve or grow.

This also means that criticisms must be accompanied by a possible solution. Noticing a problem or a mistake is important, but even more important is offering a way out so that the person does not become trapped in the thoughts and attitudes that generated that situation.

5. Criticism must arise from loving kindness

"Speak from a kind loving mindset, not harboring hatred [...] We will not utter bad words, but we will respect and feel pity for that person's well-being, with a kind and loving mind, without internal hatred, without hostility and without evil intentions Said Buddha.

Positive criticisms are those that arise from a mettā mentality, as the loving, benevolent and active attitude towards others is defined in Buddhism. That mind has left behind anger and anguish to embrace a more unconditional love. If we have not achieved that inner peace, but are harboring grudges and frustrations, we should ask ourselves if we are the best person to criticize.

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