How to criticize

by Nicolas

When you work with other people and delegate to others you inevitably will be in situations where you have to criticize other people. This is a very important task in communication so that they understand your expectation and can improve their performance in future. 

If you do it the wrong way people might not accept your critic and rather resist than changing their behavior. Using a few simple principles can help turning criticism into something positive which can initiate change:

Give critics timely

Giving feedback on a recent example makes it much more concrete and it will be much easier for your counterpart to understand what you mean. Don’t wait until the annual review session initiated from HR since things might be too far away by then.

Criticize only one thing at a time

Imagine a situation where someone is telling you what is all wrong with you listing up more than a dozen of items. As a result you will feel like a complete fool and your motivation to change will be very low. In a working environment this might even turn worse and if your receive such feedback from your superior you might even fear for your job.

It is therefore important to criticize one item at a time. My experience is that generally most people want to improve themselves and they can focus on changing one item successfully at a time but not a dozen. If you want many things to be changed you better prioritize and go step by step.

Do it in a four eyes situation

Never criticize someone in front of a group if you expect it to be constructive and motivating to change. Sometimes - of course - this might be done for political reasons…

Offer solutions

Before you go into this session it is very helpful if you also already thought about a few ways to improve. Although the ways to improve should be developed by your counterpart, so that the acceptance is there, you can play the role of a coach by also offering solutions if necessary. It might also soften the criticism and help to turn it into something positive with focus on improvement.

Be open to be receive critics yourself

You might not be right and your own behavior might be questioned as a result of your criticism. You therefore must listen actively to your counterpart and be ready to accept that you also might have to change your behavior.

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8 Responses to “How to criticize”

  1. shan says:

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  2. Frederic says:

    A post full of wisdom. I think I should avoid the Gregory House’s “you’re an idiot!” way of of doing it…

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