Giving truly constructive criticism

CHICOPEE, Mass. (Mass Appeal)  It’s hard to critique people, so how do we make sure we’re doing it constructively?  Ken Dolan-Del Vecchio, Author, Family Therapist, Health and Wellness Executive showed us how.

Giving truly constructive criticism

by Ken Dolan-Del Vecchio

Very few of us like to give or receive criticism so don’t be hard on yourself if you find this difficult to do.
Keep the goal in mind: to help the other person succeed, not to put them down.
Truly constructive criticism does not insult or demean the recipient. Instead, it offers them an opportunity to learn something valuable.

This simple formula can help:

  • Specifically describe (like you’re watching the video replay) the behavior that needs to change.
  • Identify the negative impact of the behavior (the reason a change makes sense).
  • Describe the positive behavior that you’d like to see.

An example when correcting a child:

  • When you reached across Grandma’s plate to grab the ketchup that was not okay because your sleeve almost fell in Grandma’s mashed potatoes and it’s also not the best table manners. From now on I’m going to expect you to ask somebody who can easily reach what you need to pass it to you.
  • It’s necessary sometimes to mention a logical consequence that will follow if the person on the receiving end doesn’t make the desired change:
  • When you leave your dirty clothes in the bathroom then I either have to pick them up and put them in the wash, which is not my job, or leave them there, which is gross. From now on I’m going to expect you to put your dirty clothes in the hamper downstairs because it’s your responsibility to take care of your laundry. If you leave them in the bathroom, I’m either going to leave them

An example from the workplace:

  • You do great work and I’m glad you’re part of our team, but you were more than 20 minutes late getting back from lunch today and on Monday as well. We had to delay the start of your presentation on Monday and I could have used your input on a call with a client this afternoon but I couldn’t reach you. I need you to turn this around so you’re available consistently during business hours. If we can’t reach you again, I’m going to start thinking twice about the assignments I can trust you with and that’s going to affect your performance review.

A few words about destructive criticism:

While the goal of constructive criticism is to help the other person succeed, the goal of destructive criticism is to put the other person down, punish them, or vent your own frustration.
Destructive criticism comes across as accusation or character indictment rather than a request for behavior change. While constructive criticism may start with “when you do (a specific behavior),” destructive criticism starts with “you are (unreliable, rude, incompetent, nasty, impossible)” or “you always…” or “you never….”

  • You are a monster when it comes to your little brother. One day soon he’ll be strong enough to fight back and you’ll end up with a broken nose.
  • You’re always so rude at the dinner table. You have no manners at all.
  • You never let people finish what their saying. It’s all about you!

Destructive criticism leaves the recipient feeling verbally assaulted and is likely to be met with defensiveness.
Constructive criticism is a gift that can increase closeness between those involved in the conversation. Destructive criticism often damages the relationship between those involved in the exchange.
If you keep a level head, avoid lashing out in anger, and speak with your goal in mind-the entirely positive goal of helping the recipient of what you have to say learn how to behave in a more positive manner-you will deliver truly helpful criticism.

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