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 during the academic year, stressing that if they began to work, they could do better in the next academic year.
Her point about constructive criticism resonated. I believe there is a difference between criticism and constructive criticism and how easy it is 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.
But 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 do that 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 with the right attitude. Sadly, 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.
It’s not all bad. 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.