We all get criticism from time to time. The best type of criticism is constructive, which aims to help the person who receives it to understand ways to improve. However, not all criticism is constructive. Sometimes you may have a hard time knowing the difference between constructive and non-constructive criticism, regardless of whether you give it or receive it. Once you understand the difference, you can determine if the comment you give is constructive. Knowing this difference can also help you determine if the feedback you receive is constructive and worth listening to.
Method 1 of 3: Provide Constructive Criticism
Step 1. Focus the criticism on a particular situation
This means that instead of criticizing someone as a person or a pattern of their behavior, you should keep the criticism focused on an incident. In this way, the person who receives it will understand that the problem is not with him as a person, and that he does not always do things wrong.
- Keep criticism in the present. If you are talking about something that happened a long time ago or linking a current situation to something from the past, this may not be constructive.
- Avoid saying something like "This is the same thing you did last time" or "I've noticed that you always do things like this." Phrases like this are not constructive and can be hurtful.
- Instead, you can say "I noticed you were late this morning" or "I noticed you did not edit your presentation today."
Step 2. Keep the criticism specific
Constructive criticism addresses specific defects and provides advice on how to improve them. The person who receives them will have a clear idea of the actions to take in order to improve. This is an example of the difference between a specific criticism and an ambiguous one:
- Specific: “Some of the women feel that they speak above them. It would be helpful if you step in if you notice that group members are interrupting or downplaying what others are saying. If certain members feel doubtful, you could even ask for their opinion to ensure they know that you value their thoughts. "
- Ambiguous: “You are not showing enough leadership. Your group is not successful and the environment is unpleasant, especially for women. I hope to see a better mood and more equitable participation”.
Step 3. Use objective language
Objective language shows people that you don't judge them. This only consists of expressing the facts or things that you have observed. Your opinion will not negatively evaluate their personal attributes or abilities. This is an example of the difference between objective and judgmental language when speaking to an artist:
- Objective: “The anatomy in this photo resembles that of a child, which contrasts with the face more similar to that of an adult. If it had a smaller head-to-body ratio and slightly longer limbs, it would more closely resemble an adult. It might help if you spend a little more time reviewing anatomy books. "
- Prejudiced: “To be honest, you are terrible at drawing. You are very self-centered and lack a work ethic. I wonder how much commitment you have to art”.
Step 4. Observe the impact of your comments
If you are concerned that they are constructive, you will need to verify that they have the desired impact. If the person seems very offended or hurt, you could have been too harsh.
- If they don't seem to take your comments to heart, you can ask them if they understood and why they are not making changes.
- Perhaps you were too ambiguous or touchy, and the person did not consider that the comment was intended to prompt a direct change.
Method 2 of 3: Know if you receive constructive criticism
Step 1. Identify the value of criticism
If it is truly constructive, it will be provided with the goal that you or your work will improve in some way. See if you can determine how the criticism is geared toward that end. If the criticism does not offer clear guidelines on how to improve something, it may not be constructive. This is an example at home of the difference between constructive criticism and one that is not:
- Valuable: “I wish you would put the dishes in the dishwasher when you're done using them. When I get home and see the sink full of them, I feel frustrated and exhausted, and I think this makes it difficult for us to have a good time together. " This makes clear why criticism is being given, how the person can change their behavior, and what the value of such change would be.
- Not valuable: “You are so careless! I hate that you always leave the dishes to me to wash them”. This does not provide me with a solution or make it clear what a change would do for either party.
Step 2. Consider how specific the criticism is
The criticism should be clear about a specific behavior or product, not you as a person. If you are not sure if the criticism is specific, ask for clarification. You may find that the criticism was just not clear or that it is actually not constructive.
- You can say something like, “I heard that you are upset with my work this week. Can you tell me exactly what reports you have had problems with and why? "
- If the person has been specific, but you think there is something else they are not telling you, you can say “Thanks for clarifying that I need to spend more time on this week's report. Is there anything else that worries you?
Step 3. Listen actively
Receiving criticism can be difficult. You could be embarrassed, hurt, or even angry if you feel unfairly criticized. However, you won't know if the criticism is constructive or not, unless you listen carefully. Once you know this, you can make changes to make things go more smoothly in the future.
- Paraphrase what the person criticizing you says. Repeat what you understand of what he says, so that he can see that you assimilate it. This will also help clarify that you understand.
- Ask questions if you don't understand. You can always say "Can you give me an example?"
- Don't get defensive. You may want to argue or defend yourself. However, if the criticism is constructive, remember that the best response is to say “Thank you for telling me. I will do my best to implement these changes in the future. "
Step 4. Make the changes suggested in the review
Constructive criticism is always aimed at helping you grow and improve. These must also be specific. Therefore, if you make the changes in the specific situation and strive to improve and grow, this will satisfy the person making the criticism.
- After making the changes, talk to the person. You can say, “I made these changes. Have you noticed a difference? Do you have any other suggestions?
- If you make the changes, but the person is still dissatisfied, they may just have a personal problem with you and their criticism may not be constructive.
Step 5. Take a break before reacting
You may feel like reacting to the comment, even if it's constructive. Before answering, take a moment to sink in. This way, even if your reaction is strong and justifiable, you will have the calm and composure to respond in a focused way, rather than in a rush.
- Count to ten and take a few deep breaths before answering.
- If you receive criticism in person, you may need to be silent for a moment before responding. There is no problem with it. You will never have to answer someone right away. You can even say "Excuse me, I need to think about it for a moment."
Method 3 of 3: Make Criticism More Constructive
Step 1. Use the method of mentioning something positive, something negative, and ending with something positive
This method of criticism is very popular because it offers positive and constructive opinions at the same time. This makes it easier for people to receive them without getting defensive or feeling bad about themselves.
- First mention the positive things about the person or their job. Then mention the parts that you have to work on and end on something positive. This helps keep her self-esteem high and keep her interested in getting better.
- This would be an example of this method in a public speaking class: “Your speech was very convincing and motivating. This one started a little slow and you could have cut a minute off the start to retain audience interest. However, you have provided very strong arguments and have been clear and convincing. I saw that the audience nodded their heads at the end. "
Step 2. Choose the right time and place
The context in which the comment is provided can play a big role in how it is received. If you are the critic, talk to her privately and at a time when she is not stressed or upset. If you are the one receiving the criticism, you can ask them to speak in a place where you feel comfortable and at a time that is right for you.
- Never give a criticism in front of colleagues or co-workers.
- You can always ask "Is this a good time?" or "Could you wait for a better time?"
Step 3. Communicate your feelings about the criticism
If you feel that you are not being criticized constructively, you should mention it to the person. You can explain how the critic makes you feel using first-person sentences. You don't have to reject the criticism, just let the person know what aspect of it causes you difficulties.
- At work, you can say, “When you said I'm always late, I felt you were unfair. My control card shows that I was only late once in the last week. "
- You can also say something like, “I understand that my past behavior was very disturbing. However, I would like to focus on the incident you speak of, which occurred this morning. Can we find a way to avoid something like this in the future?
Step 4. Make sure the criticism reflects the goals of the recipient
If you are the person who is going to give the opinion, you will have to reflect on the intentions of the other person. They will be more likely to consider your comment if it relates to their personal goals. For example, if she wants to be promoted to another department, point out that the changes you ask for would be a requirement for a promotion.
If the person wants others to like them at the office, you can say, “I really want everyone in the office to get along and respect each other. When a person does not do their part, this becomes difficult”
Step 5. Identify the role of the tone
The tone can vary a lot in a constructive criticism, but there is a difference between a forceful one and a cruel one. Since constructive criticism places importance on improvement, it will not demolish the recipient. Ideally, constructive criticism should be gentle enough for the other person to take in. Strong comments can also be acceptable. However, some people might get mad at them. You should always avoid cruel comments. For example, when working with a designer, keep the following in mind:
- Delicate comment: “This is a very good start. It would be great in most situations, but for a company presentation, it has a bit of strong colors. I would recommend using plain white, ivory white, or black font; along with a simple background, and perhaps replace some of the clipart with photos. Even so, the text itself is very easy to read and the organization is perfect”.
- Strong comment: “Your PowerPoint presentation had a lot of silly clip art and contrasting colors. I need simpler text colors and more photos. That way it will be ready”.
- Cruel: “This looked like it was done by a 13-year-old who just discovered MS Paint. It has too many strong colors and wacky images. "