How To Deal With Criticism: The Socratic Method

Socrates, as we know, was a master of arguments. He established a method of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presumptions.

The Socratic Method is significant in various aspects of modern life. Take criticism, for instance. Some people are simply unable to deal with criticism, while some have no idea how to distinguish between an honest criticism and an insensitive fault-finding. This is where a short conversation of Socrates with his friend Crito can help.

Socrates: When a man is… taking [his training] seriously, does he pay attention to all praise and criticism and opinion indiscriminately, or only when it comes from the one qualified person, the actual doctor or trainer?

Crito: Only when it comes from the one qualified person.

Socrates: Then he should be afraid of the criticism and welcome the praise of the one qualified person, but not those of the general public.

Crito: Obviously.

Socrates: He ought to regulate his actions and exercises and eating and drinking by the judgement of his instructor, who has expert knowledge, not by the opinions of the rest of the public.

Once again, Crito had to agree. The same approach Socrates used [though unsuccessfully] in order to make his point while defending himself in a court. But, in most cases, such as the conversation with Crito, it worked.

Socrates: Don’t you think it a good principle that one shouldn’t respect all human opinions, but only some and not others… that one should respect the good ones and not the bad ones? And good ones are those of people with understanding, whereas bad ones are those of people without it. So my good friend, we shouldn’t care all that much about what the populace will say of us, but about what the expert on the matters of justice and injustice will say.

In today’s world, which is far more democratic than the one in which Socrates lived, the idea is even more applicable. Whenever someone [in real or virtual world] throws any kind of criticism at you, there is no need to panic or overthink about the situation. What you can do is pick the right person [expert on the matter] and have a engaging conversation with them without having the fear of being judged or accused of any wrong-doing. People are far better healer than we think them to be.

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