5 of the best ways to provide constructive criticism


‘How can I support you?’ is a query I often offer people. I dropped the word ‘help’ from my vocabulary several years ago when I realised that it denied people learning opportunities: by ‘helping’ someone you’re actually signalling that you think the person is inept.

In offering support you’re acknowledging that they are already on the path to success, and demonstrating that you know they’re capable of it.

Giving and receiving support is an important facet in so many spheres of our lives, and perhaps one of the most crucial is offering feedback. We’ve all experienced, to varying degrees, an internal wince when we’ve heard someone criticise a colleague’s perceived shortcomings.

Criticising a person is not a constructive way to provide feedback. If you attack someone when you provide it, you’re indicating that you’re not interested in seeing them learn and succeed.

Individuals who provide negative and demoralising commentary also show that they’re not even listening to what you’re saying.

To ensure you give useful feedback, consider the following:

Be honest but not harsh.

The key here is tact. Take the time to listen to what someone is saying, jot down points for improvement, and make a list of all the good points they make.

If you aren’t sure, clarify.

If you don’t follow what a person is saying, take the time to ask them what they mean. By rephrasing your confusion in a question, you’re assisting rather than hindering. For example, “You mention that x is a challenge. I’m not sure why – could you explain that again?”

READ MORE: How to own screwing up at work (without getting you fired)

Lead with the good, and end with it too.

Use good points to start your feedback loop, transform the ‘criticisms’ into points for improvements, and end with a few more good points and a compliment or two.

Respond – don’t react.

If something someone has said has you up in arms, reflect on why it has provoked you. Once you’ve done that, craft a response which is useful for both your understanding, and the other person’s awareness.

Individuals who provide negative and demoralising commentary also show that they’re not even listening to what you’re saying.

Use every opportunity for a ‘teaching moment’.

As platitudinous as it may sound, it certainly holds true that ‘When you teach, two people learn’. You improve yourself when you take the time to understand, remember, and utilise knowledge, and when you teach those skills to others.

Next time you’re required to provide feedback, picture yourself on the receiving end. Is what you’ve noted useful and constructive or is it attacking and condemning?

WATCH: How to handle negative feedback at work

Follow Jyoti on Twitter or visit her Linkedin profile.

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