Here’s the good news: Constructive criticism really is a good thing—it just needs to be delivered in the right way. How do you do that? Here are some do`s and don`ts.
Do actually be constructive
What’s the key word in constructive criticism? Constructive. You shouldn’t just be pointing out a problem—you should be offering a potential solution. Neglecting to do so immediately makes your feedback seem mean-spirited.
Don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong
Before you jump right in with your own ideas for how someone could improve, ask yourself: Am I the right person to be providing feedback on this situation? If it doesn’t directly involve you in any way, you’re best to stay out of it—or you’ll run the risk of seeming like a nosy meddler.
Do include something positive
The last thing you want is for your constructive criticism to seem like a personal attack. That’s why it’s often smart to start with something positive. It helps to cushion the blow and make it clear that you don’t think that person is bad at their entire job—there’s just something they could do to become even better.
Don’t sugar-coat your feedback
While you want to start with something good to avoid jumping right in with an accusation, it’s important that your point is still clear. You don’t want to end the conversation with that person feeling confused. So, be as specific as possible. When you can, provide examples to add extra clarity to your feedback.
Do emphasize results
You’re eager to make it clear that you aren’t just offering feedback for the sake of destroying that person’s confidence. There’s a real, meaningful result attached to your criticism. Make sure you emphasize that. Will their improvement in this area speed things up for your whole team? Eliminate errors? Streamline communication? Make sure you point to the positive effects you’ll all experience.
Don’t focus on more than one thing
When you’ve finally gotten your nerve up to provide a piece of criticism, it can be tempting to just use that opportunity to dump out everything you’ve ever wanted to say. Don’t do that! Focus on only one piece of feedback so that the recipient has a chance to process, respond, and ask questions. You shouldn’t overwhelm them with a bunch of feedback all at once—that instantly seems like an attack.
Do avoid generalizations
Nobody wants to be the bearer of bad news, and one of the ways we all tend to detach ourselves from negative feedback is by leaning on generalizations like, “Everybody has been saying…” or “The whole team has noticed…” But, using phrases like these only makes that person feel ganged up on. If you’re the one offering the criticism, then you need to be prepared to shoulder the burden and not group everybody else in with you.
Body language is another key part of delivering constructive criticism effectively. Check out our course all about body language to make sure your nonverbal cues aren’t betraying your message!