In my early years as a speaker, I passed out a simple speaker evaluation form to all audience members after each message, asking them to rate my content, preparedness, delivery, etc.
Those evaluation forms almost caused me to quit my speaking ministry.
Not the forms themselves, of course. But the way I interpreted and internalized the input given on the forms.
Back then, I didn’t know that I could — and should — carefully choose whose input to invite and whose feedback to forget.
The one piece of advice I wish someone had given me back when I was a fledgling speaker, so anxious to please everyone and offend no one?
Choose who you listen to.
Categories of Criticism
There are two basic categories of criticism:
- Injurious Input comes from a hurting person who is trying to dump their pain on you.
- Informed Feedback comes from a caring person who is trying to protect you from a lot of pain later by inflicting a little pain right now.
For decades, I ran from informed feedback and clung to injurious input, snapping at a friend who offered insightful advice while losing sleep over the one negative comment on an anonymous evaluation form.
We all do this in one way or another. It’s human nature to fixate on negativity. As we become aware of this destructive habit, we can learn to break it.
Weeding out criticism
We can learn to welcome informed feedback and reject injurious input by asking these four questions about anyone who offers criticism:
(a) Have they earned the right to speak into my life?
(b) Do they know me?
(c) Are they invested in my life?
(d) Do they care about who I am becoming?
As speakers, we certainly want to connect with our audience members and reach their hearts with God’s truth. We want to evaluate what we’re doing well, where we’re falling short, and how to improve our skills.
But we must never ever equate audience evaluation with our value as God’s servants.
We speak “not to please man but to please God” (1 Thessalonians 2:4b ESV).
Ultimately, He’s the One we listen to.