Advertising
Advertising

How to Criticise People without Causing Offence

How to Criticise People without Causing Offence
20070813-red-poppies220.jpg

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    More by this author

    7 Secrets of Being Popular 7 Tips for Writing Exam Essays Does the Internet Really Increase your Productivity? 10 Simple Tips for Using Email 7 Tips to Get on the Property Ladder

    Trending in Featured

    1 The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain) 2 How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life 3 How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques 4 How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators 5 50 Businesses You Can Start In Your Spare Time

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

    Advertising

    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

    Advertising

    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

    Advertising

    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

    Advertising

    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

    More About Goals Setting

    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next