I remember attending prize giving for my daughter many years ago, when the headmistress was talking to the girls about constructive criticism.
She was trying to impress upon the girls that the harder they worked in school, the more they would achieve. She was referring to the girls who didn’t work as hard as they could have during the academic year and that if they too began to work that little bit harder, they could do better in the next academic year.
Her point about constructive criticism resonated with me. I think there is a difference between criticism and constructive criticism and how easy it is for us to get it wrong. I believe that if the person we’re talking to benefits or improves from what is constructively being said, then constructive criticism is a good thing.
We need to remember that when we use constructive criticism, the person we’re talking to has to receive it as that. If we fail to do that we’re automatically setting ourselves up for failure before we’ve even 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.
I’m of the opinion that constructive criticism works better when both parties are familiar with each other. The criticism is likely to be more genuine that way. If there has been a history of communication problems, whether someone tries to talk to someone constructively or not, it won’t make a difference.
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 can also be used to manipulate other people into believing what’s being said, instead of using it as a tool to help.