How to Give and Get Constructive Criticism

January 8, 2020
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Uran/Felic Art Studio

Giving and getting feedback can be a love-hate relationship. We love to grow but hate the growing pains that come along.

Offering and receiving constructive criticism is crucial to the growth and productivity of your team. However, when you apply a variety of strategies for delivering constructive criticism, your team can benefit from actionable feedback.

We’ll walk you through constructive criticism, effective strategies for implementing it into your day-to-day, and steps you can take to deliver and receive effective constructive criticism with examples.

What is constructive criticism?

Constructive criticism is feedback that provides specific, actionable suggestions. Rather than providing vague and subjective advice, constructive criticism gives specific recommendations on how to make positive improvements. Constructive criticism is clear, concise, and easily actionable. It should not be general, accusatory, or judgmental.

William James, a pioneer of modern-day psychology, wrote in The Principles of Psychology, “A person’s achievements matter less than how that person subjectively perceives those achievements.” How you approach a new challenge is just as important, if not more than the actual achievement. Achievements come and go, but your growth mindset stays!

How do I give constructive criticism?

The answer is simple: compassion. Put yourself in the shoes of the person you're preparing feedback for. Think about how you would want to hear this criticism, and what would be most helpful in your growth and development?

💪 Create a sense of autonomy. Allow whoever you're giving feedback to, autonomy and space to reflect. Consider: “I thought that was a great presentation you gave. I specifically appreciated how you included metrics behind the conclusion. I have a few ideas and suggestions regarding a specific part of your presentation. Would you have some time tomorrow to discuss it with me?”

🗣 Make it a conversation. Don't just tell people what you don’t like. Suggest meaningful alternatives that show you're approaching this situation with the best intentions. Help them brainstorm possible ways to improve and bounce ideas back-and-forth. Invest in their growth if you're going to invest in criticizing them.

📚 Focus on objective facts. Speaking objectively is the best way to avoid any misunderstanding. For example, saying, “You are not reliable” is vague and accusatory. Compared to, “I haven’t received these deliverables from you. This impacts me because I depend on your deliverables to get my work done. What can I do to support you?” See the difference?

Turn harsh criticism into constructive criticism

The best way to set yourself up for success when it comes to criticism is to ask for it! Sound counterintuitive, right? Nobody likes to be criticized, but once you stop being afraid of feedback and learn how to apply it into actions, you become more receptive to it. It's OK to be uncomfortable with criticism. Just don’t let that blind you from improving!

“90 percent of it may be wrong but 10 percent of it may be what you need to grow!”

- Sheila Heen, author and educator

Feedback is a gift! Treat it as such. And just like gifts, some criticisms are more helpful than others. We encourage you to find the balance between self-aware and self-critical when approaching feedback. It's important to reflect on your areas of improvement, but just as important to not let the criticism part of constructive criticism take over. And who knows, your next critic may just end up being your best mentor!

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