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How to Criticise People without Causing Offence

How to Criticise People without Causing Offence
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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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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