When criticized — no matter how constructive the criticism is intended to be — most people become defensive. To minimize defensiveness and maximize effectiveness, it is helpful to approach constructive criticism as a full communication. Full and complete communication leaves no room for misinterpretation.
Keys to Giving Constructive Criticism:
- Before addressing the issue you intend to criticize, ask permission to speak directly about what you see. By asking permission, you deflect the initial automatic defensive reaction to criticism and open the door to full and complete communication.
- After you have established permission to speak to the heart of the issue, address what you see from your own experiences. By creating this type of relativity, you come across constructively, rather than critically.
- When providing constructive criticism, full and complete communication requires you to speak so that others can understand what it is that you are communicating. As the person giving criticism, it is your responsibility to make sure that you communicate in such a way that the intended receiver actually understands what it is that you are saying.
- Once you have spoken the information that you had permission to share, be open to further discussion. Encourage questions and ask the receiver to tell you, in their own words, what they got out of what you said. In doing so, you have the opportunity to make sure that what you said was not misinterpreted in any way.
- Do not leave people feeling wronged. Emphasize that mistakes are part of how we learn. What is important is that they learn from the constructive criticism in order to avoid making the same mistake(s) in the future.
- Finally, always acknowledge and thank the person you are talking with for allowing you to contribute to their practice.
Ultimately, criticism is nothing more than an opportunity to learn and grow — but it is not always easy to see that. Whether criticism is seen as critical or constructive is ultimately up to the person on the receiving end. However, as someone giving criticism, you have the opportunity to set the stage and ensure that what you have to say is given and taken in the best light possible.