Let’s face it. Criticism has become a dirty word.
Pick up any thesaurus and you’ll find “criticism” in the company of “nit-picking, objection, disapproval, and objection.”
The truth is criticism doesn’t have to be a dirty word.
In a broader context, criticism is an assessment, review or observation that can even be in the form of appreciation. Nobody seems to ever talk about that one: When the criticism is good, we don’t call it criticism, we call it approval. We call it praise. We call it being appreciated.
And who doesn’t enjoy sincere appreciation for their work?
Anyways, for constructive criticism to occur three things have to happen: There should be interest on the part of the criticizer and the criticized, there should be bonding and trust that the discussion is for the right reasons, and the criticism should be presented as a discussion.
When the criticism meets these three criteria, there is a strong foundation for learning to occur, and for both members to benefit from honest criticism.
Here are the three advantages to constructive criticism:
1) Gives New Perspective & Valuable Insight.
When someone invites our criticism, we have the opportunity to help that person by giving our perspective or insight into the situation.
For example, say someone asks us to check out an article they’ve written to get our opinion. Chances are the person really wants to know what we think so that they can make it the best it can be.
Our objective reading of the article can give the person valuable insight into how they can improve the article. If they weigh the importance or usefulness of the criticism, they can rewrite or revise the article to make it better
Thus, the writer and article become more valuable due to the constructive criticism.
2)Furthers Bonding and Trust.
If we’re able to give our honest opinion on something, and the other person finds it valuable, we can increase our bonding and trust with that person.
Giving constructive criticism shows the other person that we value his or her work. The result is an increased level of respect between us and the other person.
If we’re lucky enough to have really cool friends that reciprocate coolness, they will provide their valuable perspective to us.
Let’s say that we help our friend out by reviewing his article and improving the spelling and grammar so people can read it easier.
He says, “Wow, that sure is swell. I can’t believe I have such knowledgeable and cool friends willing to help me.”
So when we want to make sure one of our articles is near perfect, we can send it on to our friend and ask him for his honest opinion.
More than likely, he’ll return the favor to help us out.
As Jim Rohn said, “Giving is better than receiving because giving starts the receiving process.”
If we give our valuable perspective, others might be inclined to return the favor.
3)No Hurt Pride or Resentment.
So, when we offer even the slightest disapproval of others or their work without them inviting us to, we are basically asking for them to hate us.
Hans Selye said, “As much as we thirst for approval, we dread condemnation.”
Constructive criticism is different in that we only give it when we’re invited to give it. We give constructive criticism to people that we know and trust, and the people we are criticizing know our true intentions. We present constructive criticism as a discussion, and that our viewpoint is only one perspective and isn’t necessarily fact.
Constructive criticism is more about giving an overall view of things: what’s going well, what could be improved upon, etc.
In return, the people we criticize are thankful that we’ve provided valuable feedback to improve themselves or their work.
Your turn: In what situations do you think constructive criticism could be particularly helpful? How do we avoid people getting angry with us for offering feedback? When is it not appropriate to give criticism?