Unclog Your Filter! Constructive Criticism and the Importance of Seeking It As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Older man and younger man looking at graph on whiteboard.

I have this theory; bear with me. After somebody says or does something that causes my eyes to bulge in surprise, I remind myself, “He doesn’t know how he is coming across. He needs to clean his mental filter.” What I mean is, I am convinced all people go about their business doing what they know to be normal or acceptable, and on occasion it is not normal or acceptable or even good, and the person hasn’t the slightest because his “mental filter is clogged”.

Filters get clogged. It happens to me; it happens to my husband; it happens to my parents (sorry, Mom and Dad, should you ever read this post); it happens to my friends; it happens to you.

I bet an employer, coworker, family member, or friend occasionally internally says, “Did she just do that?” “Did she just say that?” or “What was she thinking?!” about us, but wouldn’t dream of questioning us to our faces. With enough instances over time, they may de-friend us or fire us or write us off for a promotion.

Y’all (I’m from Texas and we say that), whether blind, visually impaired, or fully sighted, we often think what we’re doing or saying is ok, inoffensive, or pleasant and we are sometimes dead-wrong. We could be portraying ourselves inaccurately; we may be overlooking an area where we need to mature or grow; we may be driving others away.

Our job is to figure out what social skills or work skills we need to curtail, cease, rein in, or even increase. We need to unclog the filters. To do so, we ask for constructive criticism.

Some personality types are more willing to offer an honest assessment; that’s who you want to ask. Ask specific questions; ask for a few areas of improvement; and ask with the intent of hearing truth instead of flattery.

Consider asking your team supervisor, “Is there an area where I could use professional growth?” Maybe you’ll learn you could improve your organizational skills, you could rein in the over-chatting, or you could work on your personal grooming.

Consider asking a mentor who knows you well, “What would you say are my two greatest strengths and two greatest weaknesses? How would you recommend I grow in the areas of weakness?” Maybe you’ll learn you could improve your workflow and public speaking abilities.

Consider asking an emotionally healthy, and very honest, assertive, and kind friend, teacher, or family member, “Can you please think it over and help me identify 3 social skills that would help me be a better friend or coworker?” Maybe you’ll learn you could improve your emotional intelligence, assertive communication, and confident nonverbal communication.

Consider asking a peer, “How could I have handled that project or situation better?” Maybe you’ll learn you could improve your communication on the job.

We can’t assume our social skills and work skills are perfect, even if they seem normal and good to us. Now is the time to ask for constructive criticism and utilize it to develop our whole selves.