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Constructive Criticism: How To Offer and Handle It

Constructive criticism is essential for personal growth and development, but it can be difficult to swallow. Learn to offer and take constructive criticism with grace

Constructive criticism is essential for personal growth and development, but it can be difficult to swallow. Learn to offer and take constructive criticism with grace.

A Closer Look at Constructive Criticism

Whether at work or in your personal life, constructive criticism is an essential part of all relationships. Giving feedback or receiving feedback is vital to personal growth and development. A common facet of any workplace — through annual reviews and employee feedback – constructive criticism provides possible solutions, delivers positive comments, and sometimes hands out negative feedback.

Providing and receiving constructive criticism is a difficult task that requires tact on all sides of the spectrum. This tool, however, is essential to life and vital to creating an effective workplace. Let’s take a closer look at this useful but dreaded device to discover how it can help or hinder success.

Understanding Constructive Criticism.

Constructive criticism is a helpful way of giving feedback. Constructive criticism provides specific suggestions rather than general advice. This approach is action-based and meant to encourage change.

Constructive criticism differs from general opinion by providing insight and inspiration. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of a situation, constructive criticism aims to examine the subject matter’s specifics in a productive and meaningful way. This advice can then be implemented to achieve better results.

The ability to provide constructive criticism that helps create motivation is considered an essential skill of strong leadership. Highlighting someone’s strengths while addressing weaknesses can be a challenge. Still, with a little practice, you can give and receive constructive criticism like a pro.

How to Provide Constructive Criticism

Being the one delivering constructive criticism can be more complicated than receiving it in many ways. The tips below will help you navigate this precarious conversation type and enable you to point out flaws positively and effectively.

Acknowledge their effort.

A golden rule of constructive criticism is to acknowledge the receiver’s efforts. No one likes to feel criticized, and mastering constructive criticism helps prevent that feeling. The person on the receiving end may get defensive and dispute your claims if they appear focused on the negative. Instead, provide important insight that aims to help the individual succeed by pointing out the positive. Focusing on what a person does well can encourage the type of behavior that you desire.

Focus on the present and the topic at hand.

Staying focused helps you to find the root of the actual issues. If you have ever had an argument with your partner that went way off track, then you understand the dilemma. It can be easy to get lost in a mountain of information and forget the real problem. Focusing on one major issue at a time is much more helpful in the long run than trying to address all of the problems at once.

Be sure that you are sharing complete thoughts that are blanketed with positive feedback. Using positive language or sharing personal stories will prevent the typical reaction of hurt feelings or defensive responses by shifting focus onto the issue instead of the individual.

Remember, constructive criticism should be a two-way street that is paved with appreciation and positivity.

Give actionable suggestions.

Another key component of constructive criticism is its focus on action. If you encounter an issue, address it by providing suggestions that encourage the listener to take charge. Always be specific when giving feedback or advice. Keeping your suggestions focused and detailed allows the receiver to quickly understand and provides them with the information they need to act. For example, one way to address an issue and offer a reliable solution is to pose it as a question. You might say, ‘Could you help with the presentation data more often? Jeremy has been handling it a lot lately. He could use the help, and you are great with this type of task.’ This approach encourages action from the receiver by pointing out and promoting their strengths.

Solicit their thoughts on your feedback.

One often overlooked aspect of employee feedback sessions is the opportunity to share their opinions. It is this factor that makes these conversations so effective. Be sure to provide some time for the receiver to share their thoughts and feelings and use them to improve in the future. Giving negative feedback or outlining areas that require improvement is the hard part of constructive criticism. Reversing the roles, however, can be just as challenging. Listening as the receiver expresses their ideas, concerns, or complaints openly is vital to future success. Be sure that you are allowing time for this process to occur without interruption. Self-improvement is one benefit of getting feedback and should apply to you the same way as the individuals you employ or interact with regularly.

Encourage the receiver to become the giver and listen to their advice with an open mind. When the person shares feedback, it is essential that you acknowledge what they have said. You can do this by outlining how you intend to address the situation or ask them to help you create a solution. Constructive criticism is beneficial in the workplace as it encourages open, back-and-forth communication that leads to positive action. Encourage employees to request time to share their thoughts and find ways to apply their ideas.

As a leader, mastering constructive criticism can mean the difference between success and failure. Knowing how to share information positively is an essential skill in any workplace and in real life.

How to Handle Constructive Criticism:

When we receive feedback from others, often our first reaction is to get defensive. However, being on the defense will not help the cause. When receiving constructive criticism, you mustn’t lash out or get defensive in the heat of the moment. Instead, use the advice below to help you receive constructive criticism graciously and use it to your advantage.

Assume good intentions.

When receiving constructive criticism, it is best to assume that the person giving it has good intentions. Skip your first reaction to retort with a snide comment and consider what is the speaker is saying. One of the most significant benefits of feedback is the opportunity to improve based on real problems. Think about what the speaker is saying. Is this an isolated issue, or is the person’s assessment of the behavior an opinion you have heard before?

When accepting constructive criticism, the focus should remain on it being ‘constructive.’ Remember that all feedback aims for positive results, even when it involves negative comments. When you are alerted to a flaw, assess it and address it accordingly.

Listen

A big part of receiving feedback is to listen to what the person is saying. Is there a larger issue at play here? If so, you must address that problem first before attempting to fix the current one. 

Constructive criticism should consist of productive dialogue that is free of emotion and solution-focused. Listen closely and give the speaker the benefit of the doubt. Assume that what they are saying is valid and correct, and unless it comes from flawed sources, take it into account. Once you have heard what the speaker is saying and you are sure that you understand, it is your job to improve the situation or change your behavior. Once again, while listening is vital to success, it is essential to remember that constructive criticism is a two-way street – share your thoughts and ideas as well.

Ask questions.

You must ask questions when receiving constructive criticism in any area of life. In the workplace, detailed weekly reports can help ensure standards are met and keep you on track. Unfortunately, this approach is not used often in real life. Instead, it would be best if you arm yourself by asking questions.

When asking questions to clarify points and outline expectations, be sure to use a passive voice and freely share your thoughts. Keeping your voice calm and controlled prevents others from assuming your emotions and allows productive dialogue to occur.

Refrain from a dismissive facial expression or any action that invalidates what the speaker is saying, and ensure that they can see that you are focused. Ask questions when you are in search of an explanation, when something requires clarification, or when you are generally unsure of the expectations. When receiving constructive criticism at work, you may want to ask for examples or discuss the problem’s prevalence.

Asking questions is an excellent way to learn and show others that you understand. Asking questions also tells the speaker that you do not dispute their opinions but require clarification. Thus, you show the speaker that you have heard them and are looking for ways to implement their ideas. These are the actions of a strong leader, so utilize them to your advantage. 

Follow Up.

Once you have had a discussion and agreed on the issues, it is time to create change through action. At the end of your initial meeting, articulate what you will be doing as you move forward, and arrange for a time to meet for follow-up if needed.

Always end any meeting in a friendly manner that assures the other person you are willing to put in the effort required to formulate change. Remember to thank the person before moving on, and always consider the takeaways you achieved in this meeting. Close every conversation on a high note and remind them how valuable you are to their ultimate goals.

Constructive criticism takes time and practice, but this tool can create opportunities where there were none before. Ask any leader for the skills they seek, and they are sure to list an ability to give and receive constructive criticism among the top few. Practice this valuable skill as part of your daily routine, and watch as doors start flying open for you.

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