How To Give Constructive Criticism

How To Give Constructive Criticism

Stop! Think about why you are giving criticism.

Criticism shouldn’t be a personal dig, a means to vent stress or an empty opportunity to exert some authority and boost your ego.

Offering others constructive criticism is an opportunity to address a specific problem and help to make a change.

This is not about scolding or nagging, but about helping others to work more effectively.

Receiving criticism is never easy.

But giving criticism and – more specifically, giving constructive criticism that motivates real changes can also be a challenge, especially when dealing with sensitive people.

Wondering how to give constructive criticism in a more positive manner?

Here are some tips on how to give constructive criticism in a way that will inspire change.

Don’t make it personal.

When giving constructive criticism, separate their work from their personality, or at least give that impression in the way you phrase your discussion. The focus should be on the problem, not the person:

Think twice about giving prescriptive instruction.

Just telling someone exactly what to do may not be the most effective approach to take.

When providing constructive criticism, offer help, but recognize that it will be up to them to figure out a strategy that works for them. It may be best to think of your role as that of someone that provides them tools to solve their own problems.

Follow constructive criticism with feedback.

If you notice that they are beginning to turn things around, let them know that! This allows them to track their progress and gives them a positive incentive boost to continue to make an effort.

Don’t shy away from constructive criticism

Make sure you DO say something if someone is not doing well. Don’t hold back just to spare their feelings.  Accept that criticism and appraisals are a part of life- they have shaped the way you and your co-worker are today. How can they improve their performance if they aren’t receiving constructive feedback? Ultimately, it is in both of your interests to make it happen.

Other things to consider:

  • When giving constructive criticism, make it a discussion, not a one-sided rant.
  • Keep your tone of voice neutral and factual in order to give the impression that your message is well-reasoned and fair. Take care to not come off as patronizing.
  • Ensure you lead by example and strive for a personal connection with your students.
  • Remember – the purpose of constructive criticism is not to engender feelings of shame or disgrace, but to encourage change!
  • Ensure the feedback message is clear by focusing on one area of change.

Winston Churchill said that “The criticisms may not be agreeable, but it is necessary”.

However, criticism is easy, constructive criticism is an art that few can demonstrate.

Criticising for the sake of it can be extremely harmful.

Constructive criticism, on the contrary, can become a point of support to grow and improve.

3 mistakes we make when Criticising:

1. Not understanding that the way we say things is as important as what we say. A valuable message can be lost in a vacuum or even cause harm if expressed inappropriately. The tone and the right words, on the contrary, can positively predispose the person criticised, to be more receptive to the message.

2. Not considering the other person. Even criticism made with the best intentions can hurt or be perceived as an attack. Criticising without taking into account the perspective, circumstances and resources of the other person can do more harm than good.

3. Assuming that we are right. Criticising thinking that our position and vision of things is the only possible is a big mistake that we often make. We need to start from the fact that our information is not necessarily true or more valuable, but is just an interpretation, opinion or suggestion. We are not possessors of the absolute truth. Nobody is.

Do not judge a person until you have walked two moons in his moccasins”, says a Native American quote.

Unfortunately, we apply very little of that ancestral wisdom.

Instead, we criticize from our point of view, without taking into account the needs, problems or capabilities of the other person.

Therefore, before speaking, it is prudent to pause and  think how we would feel if someone would have told us what we’re about to say.

If not, positive criticism becomes destructive criticism.

Frank A. Clark summed up perfectly the secret to constructive criticism:

“Criticism, like rain, must be gentle enough to fuel a person’s growth without destroying their roots.”

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