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Free thoughts about dealing with public criticism

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We are in December and the count-down to Christmas and the New Year is a roller coaster. Soon the talk will be about holidays and the heart thumping excitement of entering a brand new year of 2016.

As for me I wish to raise one simple issue with my President and by extension with all other leaders. I take the liberty to address my President on the subject of criticism and dealing with criticism:

Mr President, first and foremost I entreat you to appreciate that with growing democratization all over the world public criticism of presidents is a global phenomenon.

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Without exception free citizens worldwide demand free expression of their observations, feelings and expectations

In this respect take not any public criticism personally. Hard though it is, try hard to remove yourself from situations, fixing attention on what is critiqued. No matter how harsh the criticism, do remain calm, keeping your head clear.

Never become bitter. Yes, self-defence is instinctive, anger most natural, but do assess everything well because it can be counter-productive. At any cost, avoid ‘rapid response’ or any advice to that effect.

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As a leader you will comment on issues, but Mr President never on ‘petty speculative rumours and fickle arguments’. Intensely politicised societies like Malawi love rumour peddling. Resist being drawn into the mundane.

You see, rather than fight back I suggest you use criticism to re-refine ideas and firm up your resolve. Never ever allow criticism – any type whatsoever – to derail you from your purpose or destroy what people loved in your person in the first place!

When you have to speak, put passions in check. Remember few words uttered in anger can haunt one forever.

As a matter of principle Mr President, tarry for a time before commenting. Speak to re-direct public thinking on matters of patriotic values, peace and development.

Mr President to lead is to be exposed, so face reality, learn from criticism and grow your emotional intelligence routinely. Cultivate skills to turn wounds into wisdom, pain into resilience and anger into peace.

Bwana, you need not agree with what people speak against because those who criticise believe that you deserve it. Instead listen, learn and adjust based on rational reflection.

Most importantly, rise above all critical narrative. Most of it is mundane anyways! But always assess the authenticity of criticisms for this earns leaders respect, not dis-respect.

For advice Mr President, never ever dance to the tune of public criticism or you will be misled. Be your own man. Change you can, but only with good reason, for good and not for the occasion. Beware of foxy, calculatedly wicked advice meant to destroy your hard earned pedigree. The threat is real.

Learn to let go. Ignore the ranting type and salute the courageous types who often mean no harm any way. Criticism in ‘anonymous packages’ or in disrespectful euphemisms is worthless. Delete it from your mind. Move on unperturbed!

Mr President, citizens who dare to criticise but won’t put names to their purportedly well-meaning concerns, are expendable cowards. Never allow them to clatter your presidential calendar. Nor should they pop up in your speech. No Sir.

Quite vital, be of good cheer, all the time. Incessant critical narrative can consume the strongest. Humour and light moments make leaders humanly authentic.

Jeff Wolf says a good sense of humour is like a coat of amour; it helps shield leaders from criticism. Humour and joy are healing tranquilisers in moments of emotional pain. The Bible advises the same.

But Mr President, do not grumble. I mean do not complain about being criticised. This detracts from your moral authority. It undermines people’s confidence in your leadership stamina. Remember leadership and strength – not power – are on the same continuum.

Most of all Mr President appreciate that criticism comes with the job and the times. It’s part of your job description. All authority comes with scrutiny and a public search for perfection.

Leaders shall be criticised, period. They are easy targets on whom citizens vent their anger. So as they say, ‘live with it, develop a rhino skin’. There is not much else to do about it. Not in democracies.

But criticism also comes with the times.

You see, Mr President you lead in times of economic crisis; in times of intense distrust of politicians. I urge consciousness that you lead a society mired in a vortex of fluid dynamite. Remember this!

Therefore, judge and vex not a vexed people. Instead invest time in calming public nerves. Create hope not despondency.

Mr President, understand that some people are simply negative. Some are a negation of humanity itself. You may not know this, but Malawians are an intensely negative lot.

Brace up, for you will face ‘pull him down forces’as long as you are President. Malawi politics invests time not in support, but in foiling efforts‘ for fear of being outdone’.

Yes, Mr President, beware of people who want to tear down what they cannot achieve themselves. Strange behaviour you might say and you are right. To me it’s all primitive – and I am serious about this censure.

So Mr President, stay fixed on your goal. Do your work silently, diligently and persistently. The citizens are heavily pregnant with great expectation.

Learn from Aristotle who says: anyone can be angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way – that is not easy.

And listen to the wisdom of Mother Teresa:

If you are successful you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies – succeed anyway. What you spend years creating, others destroy overnight – create anyway. Give the best you have and it will never be enough – give your best anyway.

Till then Mr President be happy. Pray always, love your family. Remember there is power in silence. Try it. It works

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