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In life we often need to criticise the actions of others, yet at the same time it can be a daunting task. Nobody likes being told their are wrong or need correcting. Yet, just because people may not like being criticised, doesn’t mean we can avoid doing it. If we allow people to continue doing the wrong thing, we will just resent their action and inwardly hold it against them. This is not a good situation; however, it is quite possible to criticise others, without making them our permanent enemy. These are some tactful Ways to criticise others:

1. I have made the same mistake myself.

This never fails to improve the situation. Even if it is not true, you can soften your criticism by saying things like “I have made the same mistake myself…” “In your situation I would have done the same thing, but…” The reason this works, is that it avoids us developing an air of superiority. What we are saying is yes, you have made a mistake, but you shouldn’t feel bad because others have done so too. A good example is with a new worker. A new worker will be a little nervous and bound to make mistakes; if we have to point out their errors all the time, they will feel bad and lose motivation. However, if we say, that’s a mistake, but an easy one to make, we correct them without making them feel miserable.

2. Tone of Voice.

70% of conversation is through the tone of voice and facial expressions. Words can be an insignificant aspect. If you have to point out a failure in someone’s behaviour, be very careful in how it is expressed.

Avoid speaking in a tone which expresses, sarcasm, anger, hostility or condescension. As much as possible, speak in a polite, friendly and natural way. This makes a big difference. Even if you feel, the person deserves your anger or sarcasm it will not help to criticise them in this way. If you do, they will react in a negative way. If you criticise in a thoughtful way, they will be much more likely to be sympathetic to your point.

3. Smile

If a colleague has done something to upset us, we find it difficult to criticise without expressing our negative emotions. If this occurs, try smiling before and during your conversation. When we smile it subconsciously defuses tense situations. When we smile, it is easier to relax and create a positive vibration.

4. Criticise Important Things.

Nobody likes a busybody, who will point out every minor infraction. If you criticise people for every small mistake, then, when there is something serious they have already developed an aversion to our critical nature. Be tolerant where possible; if someone does not share your enthusiasm for putting the stapler in EXACTLY the right place – we have to remember this is not a major personality flaw. Maybe it is just easier to live with the stapler being temporarily out of place? :)

5. Disguise the Criticism.

If we are very clever we may be able to change someone’s behaviour without actually criticising them. If a work colleague continues to do the wrong thing, try just suggesting the correct way of doing it. Appeal to their positive nature. Suggesting the correct way of doing things involves only implied criticism; but, if it results in people doing the right thing, that is all that matters.

6. Praise then Criticism.

No work colleague is without some good qualities, (we hope). If you have to criticise someone, why not start off by pointing out some of the good things they have been doing. This will put them in a good mood, and therefore they will take the criticism in a much better frame of mind. Obviously we should have some sincerity in our praise, otherwise they will see through our false flattery.

7. Praise them for doing the right Thing. (even if not true)

This method is a bit sneaky, but it is worth a try. Suppose somebody is very bad at filling in forms. Make a point of saying to your boss how good the person is at doing this task. If the person hears, they may be shamed into doing the job efficiently. I got this idea from watching an episode of the British Sitcom, Yes Minister; The civil service were refusing to implement the ministers reforms. So the minister went on TV and lavished praise on the civil service for doing an excellent job in implementing these particular reforms as soon as possible. What the minister said was completely false, but because he had praised them on TV, the civil service had to live upto the Ministers’ praise and implement the reforms.

Tejvan Pettinger works as an Economics teacher in Oxford. In his spare time he enjoys writing on topics of self-improvement, meditation and productivity. He writes a blog on meditation and self improvement called Sri Chinmoy Inspiration. He also gives Meditation Classes on behalf of the Oxford Sri Chinmoy Centre.

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