Learn How to Give and Receive Constructive Criticism

John Krautzel
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Learn to recognize the benefits of two-way communication if you want to build productive relationships and move forward in your career. Choosing the right words to deliver constructive criticism can help you gain trust and respect from peers while avoiding explosive exchanges. At the same time, you grow professionally when you listen and apply constructive criticism from others. Negative feedback makes everyone uncomfortable but working through problems gets easier the more you communicate.

Tips for Giving Constructive Criticism

1. Wait for the right time. Getting your message across is hard when your peer is visibly upset or in a tense environment. Unless it's a group exercise, you don't want to single people out in a crowd and encourage a mob mentality. Whether it's the boss or a teammate, approach your co-worker in private and politely ask for a moment of his time. People are more likely to receive your feedback with an open mind when you show consideration for their feelings.

2. Lead with something positive. Who doesn't like hearing praise from colleagues? Many people put up a mental block the moment they hear negative feedback. If you start with a compliment, your peer may see the good intentions behind your comments.

3. Check your motivations. Make sure you're truly offering constructive criticism to solve a problem or help someone improve. What is your desired outcome for the exchange, and how does it benefit your peer? You don't want to get in the habit of finding fault with anyone who thinks or behaves differently than you. Ask questions to encourage a two-way dialogue, so you can better understand your co-worker's perspective.

4. Choose tactful language. Instead of using of accusatory statements, focus on describing problematic behavior and how it affects others. For example, don't say your manager is bad at delegating. Explain why you need clear direction to get the best results and try to set up routine checkpoints when you can discuss the progress of a project. It's never wise or productive to launch a personal attack on a co-worker's character or work ethic.

Tips for Receiving Constructive Criticism

1. Encourage open communication. Many people avoid tough conversations because they're afraid of damaging team relationships. If you want honest constructive criticism, let others know early in your relationship that you value feedback and want to keep improving.

2. Don't rush to respond. Listen first and consider the impact your behavior has on other people. Even if you feel like you're being lectured, try to understand the intent behind the feedback. Not everyone is skilled at giving constructive criticism, but your colleague may have valid advice that helps you grow as a leader and collaborator.

3. Ask questions. One way to diffuse anger is to probe for more information and get a detailed picture of the problem. Keep a calm tone and ask your co-worker to provide examples of how you can improve or avoid making the same mistakes.

Approach constructive criticism as a learning experience. Whether giving or receiving feedback, you should care most about gaining insight that helps everyone achieve better results. Thank others who come to you with constructive criticism. Speaking up in an awkward situation is hard, and you should appreciate peers who are honest with you. What are your thoughts on sharing feedback at work?

Photo courtesy of Alan Levine at Flickr.com


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