Suggestions for Constructive Criticism

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If you must criticize someone: 

  • Pick the right moment to offer the criticism. Make sure the person hasn't just been shaken by a crisis or isn't otherwise preoccupied with a prior responsibility or activity. 
  • Keep in mind that you're trying to help the person improve and do better. Avoid giving the impression that you're more concerned with seeing your recommendations put into practice than in helping the individual improve. Show how the person will benefit from taking the actions you suggest. 
  • Criticize the behavior, not the person. Be specific about the behavior that you want changed. Being vague might only make the situation worse by creating anxiety and doubt. Avoid demands for agreement. When your strategies don't work, be willing to try something else. 
  • Don't engage in power struggles (win or lose situations). Stay in control even though you are angry. After something negative has happened, it’s easy to let off too much steam, but you may also say something you'll regret. Instead, say, "We seem to be at an impasse right now. Let's think about it and talk more tomorrow." Separating people from the situation is often an effective strategy for productive discussion when everyone has calmed down. 
  • Evaluate your own behavior. Be sure you can accept criticism yourself. If you can't, you may not be perceived as a credible person. Be aware that you may be contributing to the problem. Are you rewarding negative behavior by giving the individual attention? Is your being right more important than solving the problem? Do you approach the criticism thoughtfully so that the potential for a negative result will be minimized? 
  • Show you care. Express concern while sharing alternatives that the other person can use to boost his or her success. Acknowledge improvements and express appreciation for progress made in correcting undesirable behavior in a manner that will enhance positive movement.