Do you like being criticised? I know I don’t. No matter how “nice” and “helpful” the other person tries to be, it is hard not to walk away feeling nothing but resentment.
It was Winston Churchill who said: “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”
Is criticism a necessary evil then? I tend to agree with Mr Churchill.
Here are my 5 steps to delivering positive criticism
Have Clear Objectives
Do not simply vent your emotions on the other person. You must know what outcome you desire and what behaviour or habits you intend to change.
Create a Neutral Environment
Never criticise in front of peers and whenever possible wait until after the misfire, but before it has a chance to happen again. It may help to use appropriate humour to relate a similar personal experience to set the scene.
Use Fewer Words With More Meaning
Be clear and direct. You have to make sure he or she walks away with a clear understanding of what went wrong and how to correct it.
Align the Criticism with the Subject’s Goals
Make sure he or she understands how correcting the mistake will help achieve personal goals. Map the criticism back to actions that will form part of achieving these goals.
Do not simply list transgressions. Ask open ended questions and encourage a conversation that will allow him or her to open up to different viewpoints. People are more likely to take criticism to heart and act positively on it when they are allowed to draw their own conclusions.
What to do when you find yourself on the wrong end of criticism
Take time to really listen
Use active listening techniques, paraphrase and maintain eye contact. Keep an open mind to what the other person is saying.
Ask question to prevent any further misunderstandings and ask for specific examples so that you know what exactly is expected of you.
Don't get defensive
Remain open minded and do not try to defend yourself. This will only lead to a more emotional discussion and you may very well miss the point.
Remember this is a professional environment, so keep your cool at all times; if you are angry, save it for after hours and vent with friends or family instead.
Determine if it's accurate
Take a step back and evaluate the criticism. Discuss it with peers, friends or family to gain different viewpoints on it.
Address the problem
Take action. If it is your boss delivering the criticism they will take note that you are able to handle it and will provide you with more candid feedback. And who doesn’t want to be noticed by the boss?
In closing, focus on the positive, never take it personally and learn and grow from it. I will leave you with this quote from Frank A. Clark: “Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man's growth without destroying his roots.”