It’s hard for anyone to take criticism. If you asked for it, you essentially opened yourself up to negative remarks about your attitude, lifestyle or something you created. If you didn’t ask for the criticism, like in the case of an intervention, it’s even tougher to hear things about yourself that need improving. It’s never easy to give that kind of feedback, but there are plenty of ways to lighten things up a bit. Here are nine things you can do to deliver criticism that will make people more likely to love you than hate you.
1. Plan ahead.
The time and place criticism is shared plays a big part in how well it’s received. Be sure to give feedback to someone in a place that they’re already at least fairly comfortable at. Interventions are usually held in the subject of the intervention’s home, for instance. It might be better to do it somewhere less familiar, though, so that they’re not reminded of their faults every time they come home after a long day’s work. A friend’s place may be a good location. Ultimately, though, the best spot comes down to the individual’s specific circumstances.
2. Be pragmatic.
Criticism often produces an emotional reaction from the criticized, but try not to show too much emotion yourself. Say what it is you need to say without breaking down, or the subject of criticism might feel guilty that they’re making you upset or angry.
3. Be empathetic.
While being pragmatic, you should also demonstrate that you really care about the subject of criticism. Smile and use warm body language to signify that you’re on their side.
4. Be specific.
Dancing around the real problems won’t help anyone. In your criticism be sure to mention specific things the subject has done so that your friend, family member or peer understands what effect they’ve had on you and others.
5. Focus on improvement.
The whole point of criticism is to help somebody improve, so be sure to focus on things the subject can do to become a better person or artist. So give them some ideas for ways to improve, but at the same time—
6. Don’t solve their problem for them.
The subject of criticism has to come to some sorts of conclusions of their own after you deliver your feedback. If you tell them everything they have to do to get better without leaving them any leeway to find their own road to self-improvement, they won’t travel far before reverting back to old ways.
7. Know when enough’s enough.
It’s understandable that you want to explain to someone everything they need to improve at, but a good critic knows when they’ve told the subject of criticism everything they’ll be able to absorb in one sitting. If your friend wrote a bad screenplay, don’t nitpick everything you don’t like about the script. If your sibling is struggling with addiction, avoid pointing out every instance that addiction has worsened their life. Hit the important notes, and plan to work on the rest with them later.
8. End with something positive.
Remind the subject of criticism why they’re so special and worth the time you’re spending on them. It might be beneficial to change the subject somewhat to spin the conversation towards why that person is great instead of where that person’s failed.
9. Follow up.
A lot of people think criticism ends once you share your feedback. This is a pretty dangerous assumption. The subject will probably feel fragile after hearing what you and others felt the need to share, so you need to monitor them and ensure that they’re actually taking steps to improve their life. The criticizing itself is hard, but you have to remember that it’s only the first step in a longer path to improvement.
Featured photo credit: Simo Järvinen via flickr.com