Giving & Taking Constructive Criticism
Hearing you've got room to improve is often a lot harder to process than you think, but telling someone what they need to work on is even more difficult. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to go about giving and taking criticism, so we've taken a look at the best approaches to make sure feedback motivates growth, rather than a lack of self-worth.
Start with the end goal, and work your way backwards so that the receiver understands exactly why and how they can grow. By setting out a clear objective, criticism immediately switches from meaningless condemnation, to purposeful evaluation.
Hearing things you don't want to hear sends an anxious mind on overdrive. If you're providing a lot of waffle around your key points, the person you're speaking to will over-analyse every word you say and risk of focusing on the wrong things. Make sure you keep your criticism short, concise, and to the point - leaving them to ask questions for further clarification if necessary.
Making sure that the person receiving feedback feels they are in a comfortable environment - both physically and psychologically - can help soften any immediate defensiveness. For example, never point out where someone can improve in a group situation - always keep it private. And when you do have the discussion, make sure it isn't a total surprise; put some time in their diary in advance, and give them an idea of what will be discussed so they have time to think about the issues beforehand.
Make It Relevant
Showing that you understand your colleague's professional goals and being able to align their strengths and weaknesses to them makes your words more meaningful. If your feedback is broader than how the company will benefit, and focuses on how the individual can benefit too, criticism immediately becomes more constructive.
There's nothing worse than bad news followed up with more bad news. Life is all about balance - even in the 9-5 - so making sure that your colleague is as aware of their strengths - and how they can be used to combat any weaknesses - will be motivating and encouraging.
We're all guilty of waiting to be recognised (or told off) before we evaluate our own actions. If your manager doesn't have a regular catch-up with you, book one in - and take it as a time to prepare your own self-assessment of where you think you've gone right, and where you could do better.
It can be tough not to latch onto the first emotion we feel when hearing criticism - whether it's humiliation, anger, or sadness. Rather than acting on this straight away - saying something you regret or becoming defensive - sit with the emotion until the rest of your brain has had a chance to catch up and work through everything that's been said. Things are often much clearer after we give them some space, and you'll thank yourself for it later.
Whether or not you agree with what's being said, it's usually being said for a reason. Making sure to listen to an alternative point of view will give you insights into your behaviour, and rather than seeing them as an attack on your character, you can see them as repairing cracks in your armour with regard to how you can improve going forward.
Just because someone in a position of power is telling you what they think, it doesn't mean that their words are final. If something isn't clear, or you think that there has been a misunderstanding, ask questions to make sure that you're on the same page. Not only will it show that you're engaged, but it'll make it easier to overcome any weaknesses and grow from them.
How do you respond to criticism, and what are the best ways you've heard it given out? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org