I remember attending prizegiving for my daughter many years ago, at which the headmistress talked to the girls about constructive criticism.
She was trying to impress upon them that the harder they worked in school, the more they would achieve. She was referring to the girls who didn’t work during the academic year, stressing that if they began to work, they could do better next year.
But her point about constructive criticism resonated. I believe there is a difference between criticism and constructive criticism, and how it is easy for us to take both personally. If the person we’re talking to benefits or improves from what is constructively being said, then constructive criticism has to be a good thing.
We need to remember that when constructive criticism is used, the person we’re talking to has to receive it as constructive. If we fail to get that across, we’re automatically setting ourselves up for failure even before we’ve begun. Statements like, “I need you to…” or “I want you to…” won’t help us. All they’ll do is make the other person go on the defensive.
Any criticism works better when it’s offered with the right attitude. If there is negative history between two people, where one person is trying to talk to the other, it won’t make a difference. Both attitudes will need to change.
When we take a team approach around sports or work situations and use words like, “Let us look at…” the other person is less likely to go on the defensive.
Constructive criticism is used in schools and colleges, by parents or other institutions where learning takes place. It may also be used to manipulate other people into believing what’s being said, instead of as a tool to help.