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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 September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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