What is it that you want to accomplish with your criticism? Is your goal to help someone grow, recover, improve, prosper, or excel? If you are not clear as to how your criticism will help the recipient, perhaps you should delay saying anything until you have unmistakably identified the benefit for the recipient.
Additionally, you must be cognizant of your motivation for providing criticism. Even if the criticism could be helpful, it should likely not be offered when the motivation is less than honorable. If the underlying motivation is to put another “in their place,” or engage in an ego assault, it is best to allow those unproductive feelings to subside before offering your comments.
In one study, people reported that “punishment” was one of the key motivations to offer criticism to another. The problem with punishment is that it really only communicates that someone did something wrong (at least from the perspective of the critic).
Typical approaches to punishment fall far short of the ideal criticism communication. Punishment does not offer ideas on how another can improve; it typically is dispensed with a focus only on the consequence of past actions. It is focused on the rearview mirror rather than the windshield.
Additionally, to more effectively offer productive and constructive criticism we need to make sure we have all of the relevant information that is based on fact not conjecture. Facts involve that which was actually observed—what you saw or what you heard. It focuses on the “what” not the “why.” The “why” is more about your conclusions—often premature conclusions.
When assessing facts it is also important to consider your own contributions or other possible factors involved in the issue. If practices or policies have contributed to the circumstance it would be hypocritical not to acknowledge it. Contributions could include organizational practices, past decisions, situational factors, peer pressure, different world views (such as generational difference) or any of a host of other circumstances.
In what ways have you benefited from good critcism?
Written by Randy Garner
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