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The art of giving constructive criticism

Although most of us are familiar with the concept of constructive criticism, few of us still know what it really means to criticize someone in a constructive way.

Therefore here are a number of tips that can help you deliver criticism better next time - and make the receiver feel a bit better at the same time. (As opposed to giving him/her low confidence and striking out with defensive behaviors).

1. First and foremost – don't wait too long. If you take up something that has happened more than once, or that happened last month, people will just wonder why it took so long for you to criticize something. You must address the problem immediately, while it's still relevant.

2. Manage one (1) problem at a time. Never wait until you have a list of things that you are frustrated with. One thing at a time is enough and that means you have to carefully choose what you would like to improve on.

3. Keep your feelings under control. Don't try to improve other people when you're angry.

4. Do it in private. Never criticize someone in front of others because it's degrading and it'll make the person who was criticized locked up and defensive.

5. Try to deliver your criticism as a question. Instead of saying;”You will never be ready in time”, you may ask;”Why are you so often late with your deliveries?”

6. Avoid sensitive and categorical words.”Always” and ”never” are words that encourage fights. If you say;”You never listen” you're just asking for a fight instead of a solution.

7. Bring up things that can be changed. To point out problems without you caring about helping to solve them is both cruel, senseless and shortsighted. If you don't want to help solve the problem, you have no right to bring it up.

8. Manage anger. If someone is angry – don't throw gasoline on the fire by saying things like ”You need to calm down a little.”
Say instead;”It's hard for me to talk to you if you don't calm down.”Then it's their own choice. Do they want you to understand the problem, then they have to settle down.

9. Say something good too. If you want your criticism to be truly constructive and not just whining, it's smart to also give the person you criticize compliments for something else. It shows that you also have good things to say about the actions you criticize. Did you hear that last? The actions - criticize them, not the person.

Now, go practice!

About the author

Stefan Ekberg has worked in marketing for small business for 20 years and has written around 30 books on how small business owners can market themselves with limited resources. . In 2012 Stefan was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in Stockholm.

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"The 5 minute marketer" - the book
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