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What is Constructive Criticism?

What if we told you you’re not perfect?

Obviously, you know that already—but it still kind of stings. Criticism of any kind can be hard to swallow, especially when it comes to something you spent time and energy on. Inherently, we all want to do a good job. But criticism is just as important as praise, if not more so. Good, constructive feedback can help you improve and guide you towards new heights you might not have achieved otherwise.

That isn’t to say giving and taking constructive criticism is easy. But when you know how to take criticism, you become a better employee, friend, and team member.

Constructive criticism

Are you groaning and rolling your eyes at the sight of those two little words? I can’t blame you.

As much as we all love to tout our own desires to grow and improve, there’s no way around the fact that receiving constructive feedback is often cringe-worthy at best. And, being the one to offer it usually isn’t any easier.

But, here’s the thing:

“Constructive criticism is one of those necessary evils in the workplace, office or even at home. It’s what pushes you to become a better employee, and what you rely on to get the best out of everybody around you.”

However, constructive criticism is really only effective when it’s delivered politely and professionally, and getting it right resembles a tightrope walk.

What makes constructive criticism so cringe-worthy?

First, we need to answer this question: Why do we all hate constructive criticism so much? We know it almost always leads to positive outcomes, so why does it still make us flinch?

Well, to put it simply, being on the receiving end of constructive criticism knocks our confidence down a few pegs. None of us like being reminded that we aren’t flawless at our jobs, and those negative pieces of feedback are what stick with us. In fact, psychology research shows that it takes five positive events to make up for just one negative event in our brains.

Even further, we tend to get so hyper-focused on that one perceived flaw (no matter how miniscule it might be!), that it overshadows nearly everything else.

A separate study showed that constructive criticism actually dulled the lessons that employees took away from their performance appraisals. It was as if they heard that one piece of harsh feedback and totally shut down.

You get it—receiving this type of criticism is challenging because it pokes holes in our ego. But, what about offering it? Why is that part so difficult?

Despite the fact that the very premise of constructive criticism involves investing your own energy into helping someone improve, there’s still plenty of potential for fallout. You could tarnish your own reputation by being perceived as bossy or condescending. Or, you could potentially damage your relationship with that person.

In fact, a study conducted by PsychTests found that 41% of respondents have actually gotten into an argument more than once with someone because they felt unjustly criticized.

So, with scary stats like that one, it’s no wonder that we’re all hesitant to give this oh-so-important feedback to the people we work with.

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