Criticism Hints


"You" statements should be used for positive criticism, while "I" statements should denote feelings of concern.

When it comes to emotion-laden criticism there are some word-choice caveats to consider. For example, “You” statements, particularly those that are accusatory, can be a problem because they tend to focus the criticism on the individual.
You really made a mess of things!”, “You did this all wrong!” “You are a...!”

This places the criticism spotlight back on the person, not the actual behavior. This violates one of the important tenants of offering productive and constructive criticism: Criticize the Behavior Not the Person.

A useful rule is to primarily use “you” statements for positives such as, “You really did a great job!” or “You are doing very well!” (You = Positive). If you are addressing a concern or criticism, it is often better to phrase it from your perspective with “I” statements, such as “I am concerned that…” or “I am worried that….” Then follow that with the fact-based specifics that focus on the behavior. (I = Concern).

Keep in mind that we are really just addressing those types of “you” statements that can sound overly aggressive. It is not really possible or desirable to eliminate the pronoun “you” from your vocabulary—that makes no practical sense. What we are talking about here is the use of the term in an accusatory or intentionally harsh manner that is often focused on casting blame.

Although making small adjustments in vocabulary may not seem like much of a change, research has shown that such ostensibly insignificant changes, such as more carefully considering your words, can have a dramatic impact on the way your message is received.

Written by Randy Garner

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