Criticism. It’s difficult to give and even harder to receive. So I’m going to do a short series (just two posts) on criticism. The first, this one, will cover giving criticism and the second receiving it. In coaching, we talk a lot about asserting yourself and setting boundaries. One critical component of standing up for yourself involves delivering information or opinions that might not be so nice. When we keep things to ourselves and pray that they ‘work themselves out’ we often make problems worse.
Here are five tips that will help you deliver criticism with class.
Praise in Public, Criticize in Private: When good things happen, acknowledge them. People want to hear when they are doing something right and it’s a good idea, in many cases, to make your satisfaction known. However, if you have something critical or challenging to say, pull someone aside and do it privately. This is true at work and at home. Share your successes, but take your problems up in private, in a one-on-one situation.
Own It: When you use ‘you statements’ they often come across as accusatory. It’s like a verbal finger pointing. “You should have …” “Why didn’t you…” ‘I statements’ don’t sound as harsh. “I wish you would have…” “I expected…” When people realize that a criticism is coming their defenses immediately go up. You statements force those defenses up even higher!
Calm, Cool and Collected: Do not deliver criticism when you are angry, annoyed or frustrated. Your tone of voice says more than your words ever will. If you must, wait until you’ve calmed down first. When you give criticism while angry almost guarantees an argument or conflict, making a bad situation even worse.
Get On the Good Foot: If at all possible, start the discussion with something positive and then go into the harder stuff. For example, “I loved the content of your presentation. I think your ideas were right on point however, I need you to be a little more diligent when it comes to proof-reading.”
Take Action: Don’t just say what is wrong or what you didn’t like. Offer suggestions on how the situation could be improved. “If you take 10 minutes when you get home from school to do your chores, you could get them out of the way in a snap.”