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Cruel to be kind: how do you approach criticism?

Cruel to be kind: how do you approach criticism?

In all facets of life, we’re surrounded by criticism. Whether it’s in our personal or professional lives, everyone loves to pass judgement. Criticism, in general, holds a lot of negative connotations. But in reality, it can be beneficial and productive. When it’s put across in the right way, that is.

Criticism can help us grow and develop ourselves or our businesses to be better, stronger, and more successful. So whether you want to be more helpful in the way you offer advice or find criticism a bitter pill to swallow, keep reading.


Constructive versus destructive

There’s a big difference between constructive and destructive criticism. Most of the time, it’s the intent. Constructive criticism is helpful and useful. It’s practical advice given to guide someone on how to do – or be – better. It’s well-intentioned and motivated purely by wanting to help someone improve.

Destructive criticism tends to belittle and feels more like a direct attack. It’s less about offering advice and more about knocking someone down. With destructive criticism, there’s no intention to help someone improve. It’s negative and criticising for the sake of it, without actually offering any advice.


Taking it

Even constructive criticism can be hard to take at times. If you’ve worked hard towards something only to be told it’s not right or good enough, it can be disheartening.

If someone offers you a piece of constructive criticism, try not to take it personally. A critique of your work is in no way a reflection of yourself. It can be easy to switch off when someone says something about you or something you disagree with. But try to actually hear what’s being said. You don’t have to agree or disagree, just acknowledge it. Then take some time to consider it. Try to understand they were coming from a good place. And use it to be better next time.

In terms of destructive criticism, it’s best to acknowledge, be the bigger person, and walk away. No good will come from going on the defensive and starting a disagreement. You can even try to turn the negative into a positive. Sure, their delivery might not have been the best, but is there some lesson to be taken from what was said?

It can help to remember that destructive criticism often comes from those who are insecure and threatened. Try your best to take it on the chin.


Dishing it out

Criticism in businesses can be essential. There are 14.9% lower turnover rates in companies that offer regular employee feedback and 82% of people appreciate feedback regardless of if it’s positive or negative. On the reverse, 4 out of 10 employees are actively disengaged when they get little to no feedback.

People like to learn and do better. We enjoy being challenged. But it’s all in the delivery. If you’re offering someone a piece of criticism, make sure it’s always constructive. Give some thought to what you say before you say it. Think about what it would be like to receive the feedback you’re about to give. If you wouldn’t want to hear it yourself, don’t say it to anyone else. 

A useful rule to follow is to combine any negative feedback with something positive and advice for making it better. Without these two things, your feedback is leaning more towards being destructive.


A productive atmosphere

In your business, you also want to encourage opinion and criticism. If you make it a regular and familiar part of your operation, it’s less likely people will take it to heart or feel attacked when they receive it. Opinions matter and contrasting ones help new ideas to grow. Everyone on your team should feel able to voice their opinion. But it should always be done in a constructive way. 

There’s only so much we can grow and develop on our own. That’s why criticism is so important. It forces us to rethink how we approach life. It challenges us to work harder and be better. But destructive criticism will have the opposite effect.

In your business, make sure all criticism is constructive. Otherwise, you’ll just be going round in circles and people will end up hurt and unmotivated. Encourage yourself and others to take some time to reflect on how you receive criticism as well. Maybe you’re missing out on valuable, useful advice by taking it too personally.

At Coster Content, we are passionate about all things communication. If you want to communicate better through your writing or want us to take your content off your hands, get in touch on 0161 413 8418.