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6 Tips on Critiquing Without Melting Down

6 Tips on Critiquing Without Melting Down

    I had a senior-level writing course when I was in college. The first thing the professor told the class was that if any of us didn’t think we could handle honest critiques of our work, we should leave. Nobody did, of course, but over the course of the semester a few of my classmates wished they had. It wasn’t that the professor went out of his way to be mean, but his critique style could pretty well convince a student that their writing was simply awful. I remain convinced that if my professor had just made a few small changes to his critique style, he wouldn’t need to warn incoming students about critiques.

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    Offering constructive criticism is surprisingly hard to do. There’s this balance you have to strike between working to improve the project at hand and not absolutely bashing the creator of that project. It’s made worse by the fact that when we critique, we’re almost always looking at something subjective: there is no right way to judge a job performances, a short story or a user interface.

    1. Comment on what’s right

    In every peer critique I’ve ever experienced, the teacher or leader has made a point of instructing the group to comment on the things they like about th work in question. On the surface, it seems like this instruction is just an effort to keep everyone’s feelings from getting hurt. But there is a purpose to commenting on what’s right with a project: after a critique, it’s entirely possible for the creator to throw out everything and start from scratch. It’s a fact that most criticism focuses on what’s wrong with a project — that means there’s almost no feedback telling the creator what is worth keeping.

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    2. Ask why

    Every project has some sort of limitations from size to color to kind. When the person responsible for the project asks you for feedback, she may forget to mention those limitations. When you launch into a critique, though, she’ll get frustrated because you don’t understand the limitations she was working with. I’ve seen it happen — and been guilty of getting frustrated in this manner — more times than I care to count. The only way to avoid it — unless you have a list of the limitations in your hand — is to ask why the creator went with a certain tactic.

    3. Focus on the general

    We don’t always catch every typo before we go looking for a little feedback on our work. And while it’s great if we get a critique that deals with a few technicalities, it’s not nearly as valuable as a critique that focuses on the piece as a whole. When you’re giving feedback try to ignore the technical errors and focus on the big picture: in a performance review, for instance, how Bob interacts with customers is far more important than how he shakes a customer’s hand. Sure, the handshake could be improved on, but it’s better to have a great overall interaction with the customer than focus on that little detail.

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    4. Brainstorm fixes

    If you’re giving a critique, you have no obligation to explain how to fix the project in question. It can be helpful for the creator to hear some suggestions, but telling the creator that there’s only one way to fix it doesn’t often help. Instead, making the effort to talk through a couple of possible solutions — brainstorming a few fixes — can help the creator quite a bit.

    5. Offer an honest opinion

    As we try to avoid being too critical, we run the risk of not really explaining what we think of a given project. If we don’t actually tell a project’s creator what our honest opinions are, what’s the point of a critique at all? While I’m not encouraging you to seek out every little fault, I do think it’s important to tell the recipient of your critique where you struggled with the project, what seems like it could be improved and what you think other people will have problems with — as well as what you like about the project.

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    6. Leave it to their judgment

    No matter how fabulous your advice is, the person who’s work you critique may choose to ignore it. It’s his or her project and choice on how to change it. I’d recommend avoiding all the variations on “I told you so” you can think of, as well as ignoring any urges to ask for a critique of your critique. Unless you are asked for further feedback, consider yourself done when your initial critique is over.

    Building Your Critiquing Skills

    Critiquing is a skill, just as much as any other aspect of communication. Considering how often we’re asked for our opinions on something, it seems worthwhile to develop the skill to give an opinion without getting everyone in an uproar. While I’d love it if some people would just identify a little less with their work, the truth is that many people take critiques very personally and it takes a deft touch to help them improve a project without everything ending in tears. Whether you’re participating in critique sessions for your company’s next big marketing campaign or you’re headed off to the local writers group, think about how you can give a great critique. How can you really help the person asking for your feedback improve their project?

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    Last Updated on October 14, 2020

    Had a Bad Day? 7 Ways to Rebound From It and Feel Good Again

    Had a Bad Day? 7 Ways to Rebound From It and Feel Good Again

    Today didn’t turn out as you planned, but it doesn’t mean you’re weak. It simply means that you’re human, and you’re not bad just because you had a bad day.

    “Not everyday is a good day but there is something good in every day.” -Alice Morse Earle

    It’s not the end of the world when you find yourself thinking “I had a bad day,” but it can feel like it. You may have had plans that fell apart, experiences that set you back, and interactions that only did harm.

    You may have started the day thinking you could take on it all, only to find you could hardly get out of bed. When you have a bad day, you can forget to look at the good.

    Sometimes, self-care helps us to remember why we are worth it. It helps us to recharge and reset our mindset. It helps us to know that there are still options and that the day isn’t over yet.

    Love yourself today, no matter how hard it’s been. That’s the way to find yourself amidst the hardships you have. That’s how you center yourself and regain focus and live a more meaningful life. Give yourself some credit and compassion.

    Here are 7 ways to rebound from a bad day using self-compassion as a tool. If you had a bad day, these are for you!

    1. Make a Gratitude List

    In a study on gratitude, psychologists Dr. Robert A Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough conducted an experiment where one group of people wrote out gratitude lists for ten weeks while another group wrote about irritations. The study found that the group that wrote about gratitude reported more optimistic mindsets in their lives[1].

    Overall, having a gratitude list improved well-being and made one truly grateful by counting the blessings in their lives.

    Write a list of what you are grateful for if you had a bad day. Make it as long as you like, but also remember to note why you’re grateful for each thing you write.

    What has given you the most joy? What has set you up for better days? Keep a tally of triumphs in mind, especially when you do have the bad days.

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    The day doesn’t define you, and you still have things of value that surround you. These could be material things, spiritual connections and experiences, relationships, basic needs, emotional and mental well-being, physical health, progress towards hopes and dreams, or simply being alive.

    Here are some other simple ways to practice gratitude.

    2. Write in a Journal

    Journaling affects your overall mental health, which also affects physical health and aids in the management of stress, depression, anxiety, and more[2].

    All you need is a pen and paper, or you could do an online, password-protected journal such as Penzu. The key is to get started and not pressure yourself on how polished or perfect it is. You don’t need to have prior experience to start journal writing. Just start.

    Write out everything that is bothering you for 15 minutes. This helps with rumination, processing problems, and can even aid with brainstorming solutions.

    However you approach it, you can find patterns of thinking that no longer serve you and start to transform your overall mental state. This will impact all areas of your life and is a great coping skill.

    3. Meditate

    Meditation can help you overcome negative thought patterns, worrying about the future, dwelling on the past, or struggling to overcome a bad day[3]. It shifts your mentality and helps you focus on the present or any one thing you truly want to focus on.

    Here is an example of a meditation you can do:

    Get into a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Rest your body, release tension, and unclench your jaw. Tighten and release each muscle group in a body scan for progressive muscle relaxation.

    Focus on your breath, taking a few deep breaths. Let your belly expand when you breathe in for diaphragmatic breathing. Empty yourself completely of air, then return to normal breathing.

    Next, focus on the idea of self-love and let it erase negative thoughts. Think about the ways you’ve been judging yourself, with the narratives coming up that your mind may create.

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    Give yourself unconditional love and release judgment. Take your time meditating on this because you matter. This is particularly important if you had a bad day.

    Check out this article for more on how to get started with a meditation practice.

    4. Do Child’s Pose

    Yoga Outlet says:

    “Child’s Pose is a simple way to calm your mind, slow your breath, and restore a feeling of peace and safety. Practicing the pose before bedtime can help to release the worries of the day. Practicing in the morning can you help transition from sleeping to waking.”[4]

    When you do Child’s Pose, it can be between difficult positions in yoga, or it can be anytime you feel you need a rest. It helps you recover from difficulties and relax the mind.

    It also has the physical health benefits of elongating your back, opening your hips, and helping with digestion[5].

    To do Child’s Pose, rest your buttocks back on your feet, knees on the floor. Elongate your body over your knees with both arms extended or tucked back, with head and neck resting on the floor[6].

    Had a bad day? Try Child's Pose.

       

      Do this pose as a gift to yourself. You are allowing yourself to heal, rest, get time for yourself, recover, and recharge. When you’ve had a bad day, it’s there waiting for you.

      5. Try Positive Self-Talk

      Engage in positive self-talk. This is essentially choosing your thoughts.

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      When you have a negative thought, such as “I can’t do this,” replace it consciously with the thought “I can do this.” Give yourself positive affirmations to help with this.

      Negative self-talk fits into four general categories: personalizing or blaming yourself, magnifying or only focusing on the negative, catastrophizing or expecting the worst to happen, and polarizing or only seeing back and white[7].

      When you stop blaming yourself for everything and start focusing on the positive, expecting things to work out, and seeing the areas of grey in life, you reverse these negative mindsets and engage in positive self-talk.

      When you speak words of kindness to yourself, your brain responds with a more positive attitude. That attitude will affect everything you do. It’s how you take care of yourself if you had a bad day.

      Check in with yourself to know when you are having negative self-talk. Are you seeing patterns? When did they start to become a problem? Are you able to turn these thoughts around?

      6. Use Coping Skills and Take a Break

      Use your coping skills. This means not letting your thoughts take control of yourself.

      You can distract yourself and escape a bit. Do things you love. You can exercise, listen to music, dance, volunteer or help someone, be in nature, or read a book.

      It isn’t about repression. It’s about redirection. You can’t stay in thoughts that are no longer working for you.

      Sometimes, it’s okay to get out of your own way. Give yourself a break from the things going on in your head. You can always come back to a problem later. This may even help you figure out the best course of action as sometimes stepping away is the only way to see the solution.

      If you had a bad day, you may not feel like addressing what went wrong. You may need a break, so take one.

      7. If a Bad Day Turns Into Bad Days

      “I believe depression is legitimate. But I also believe that if you don’t exercise, eat nutritious food, get sunlight, get enough sleep, consume positive material, surround yourself with support, then you aren’t giving yourself a fighting chance.” –Jim Carrey

      If you’ve been feeling out of control, depressed, or unstable for more than a few weeks, it’s time to call a mental health professional. This is not because you have failed in any way. It’s because you are human, and you simply need help.

      You may not be able to quickly rebound from a bad day, and that’s fine. Feel what you feel, but don’t let it consume you.

      When you talk to a professional, share the techniques that you have already tried here and whether they were helpful. They may tell you additional ideas or gain insights from your struggles of not being able to rebound from a series of bad days.

      If you’re having more than just a bad day, they will want to know. If you don’t have the answers, that’s okay, too. You just need to try these tools and figure out how you’re feeling. That’s all that’s required of you.

      Keep taking care of yourself. Any progress is progress, no matter how small. Give yourself a chance to get better by reaching out.

      Final Thoughts

      If you had a bad day, don’t let it stop you.

      Know this: It’s okay not to be okay. You have a right to feel what you feel. But there is something you can do about it.

      You can invest in yourself via self-care.

      You are not alone in this. Everyone has bad days from time to time. You just need to know that you are the positive things you tell yourself.

      More Things You Can Do If You Had a Bad Day

      Featured photo credit: Anthony Tran via unsplash.com

      Reference

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