12 Most Crucial Tips when Communicating Criticism
Trolls abound on the internet. Leaving biting little comments meant to grab attention and engender rage. “You suck and that’s sad” is not criticism or feedback. It does nothing to start a conversation or help. It’s just lame.
Bloggers, authors, speakers, and anyone who does creative work cherishes the criticism and feedback people give. It makes us better at what we do. I like it when I write something that makes people disagree. It makes me think about my own beliefs! The benefits of feedback are tremendous, but only when that criticism is communicated well.
Here are the 12 Most Crucial Tips for Communication Criticism:
1. Criticism is a reflection of the critic
Feedback and criticism is not about the person being criticized. It’s about the person giving the critique. It is just one person’s opinion. It reflects one point of view. When giving feedback think about what it says about you? Snide and snotty or helpful and challenging? Whatever the approach, criticism says more about the critic than the person on the receiving end.
2. It should come from the heart
The intent of the feedback is to help the other person be better at whatever they are doing. It has soul. It’s meaningful. The intent is not so that the evaluator can say, “Hey, look how smart I am? I got that guy good, huh?”
3. Be specific
Criticism needs to be specific. State what you observed and how it made you feel. Avoid sweeping generalizations. Saying “that was the worst video blog ever” is not helpful. What in particular made it the worst? It’s important to state the why behind a snipe otherwise it’s just a gripe!
4. Offer solutions or alternative ideas
If you are specific in your feedback, then offer solutions for how the person could improve in the future. This also shows the recipient of the criticism the intent of the feedback and instills good will.
5. Avoid the accusatory “you need to…”
They really don’t need to do anything! “You need to…” implies there is one right way to create art. There is not. Criticism is an opinion.
6. Don’t speak for the group
There is no “we” in criticism! Speaking for a group of people (real or non-existent) is not the way to deliver feedback. Speak for yourself and not the organization. Using the ubiquitous “we” makes the receiver of the feedback feel like people are ganging up on him or her or it makes them wonder who is this we.
7. Use I statements
The solution for the “you need to” problem or coming down with a case of the “we’s” is using I statements. “I would like to see” or “I would approach it this way” highlights the one voice of the evaluator.
8. Provide positives
At Toastmasters when we evaluate speeches, we always try to include something positive that the speaker did. Now some people will say that this is sugar coating the criticism, but I think that part of effective feedback is understanding what your strengths are as well as what you need to fix.
9. Be honest
Providing positive feedback doesn’t mean you should lie just to have something nice to say. Keep the feedback honest and authentic.
10. Criticism is a dialogue
Keep the lines of communication open. Feedback that is thoughtful, focused, and solution oriented usually begets another request for feedback. Be open to the back and forth communication the person on the receiving end will want to have.
11. No jerks, trolls or mean girls
Insults, ad homs, snark, sarcasm are NOT helpful. It does nothing to help the other person improve and has no place in constructive criticism.
12. Did I mention that feedback is all about you?
In case you forgot, it really is all about you. This one idea really changed how I viewed giving criticism. The other person can throw away what I have to say if they don’t agree and that’s ok.
Criticism is awesome. It is sometimes hard to hear, but it is what helps us grow in our chosen field. Growth can be painful just like feedback; however, we can’t get better if we don’t know there is a problem.
Do you have any tips for delivering constructive criticism? How about a shining example of someone who delivers feedback well? Speak up and share your thoughts!
Featured image courtesy of Cali4beach via Creative Commons.