Do you hate being criticized? Most people avoid criticism because it triggers one of the biggest human fears – the fear of rejection. Yet, the majority believes that criticism can be constructive.
After decades of studying human behavior and psychology and working with hundreds of people, I know for a fact that criticism is always counter-productive.
Wait! Am I suggesting a sticky sugar coat over everything? Not at all!
There is a HUGE difference between feedback and criticism.
You can cultivate more trust and openness in your relationships by learning how to communicate your feedback honestly and without criticizing. That’s why it’s important to know what sets apart feedback from criticism.
The 3 Ways to Discern Feedback from Criticism:
1. Criticism Is Always UNSOLICITED, Whereas Feedback Is REQUESTED
Have you ever witnessed a disagreement between vegetarians and carnivores? It starts when one party or both feel compelled to impose their point of view onto another. The motive is usually noble – a sincere desire to help, as each believes that their preference is healthier. As the result, however, both parties receive a stronger reinforcement of their own point of view and become more resentful of the opposing perspective.
Chances are you don’t enjoy when other people volunteer to tell you how to live your life and what’s right or wrong for you. This was one of the perks of growing up – the freedom of making your own decisions, right? Now, when someone tries to teach you, you inevitably become defensive and justify the validity of your choices.
Even if you are not criticized directly, when your decisions are disapproved, you still take it personally. If you are the one offering unsolicited advice, your input will likely be rejected.
Feedback is always requested. This creates a welcoming atmosphere in which it can be received. It also assures the right timing.
2. Criticism Points Out FAULTS; Feedback Looks for SOLUTIONS
Criticism underlines what’s not working. Feedback is actively seeking for new opportunities and uncovers more potential.
Imagine being in a store with your girlfriend. She is trying on a dress and asks for your opinion. And you don’t like the dress.
“You can say it looks baggy, I don’t like it” OR “If it was tighter around your waist, it would flatter your figure more.”
The second version doesn’t discount your her choice, but suggests a possibility for a better fit.
Another example: You asked your family member to do the dishes, and they didn’t. You can say “Why you didn’t do the dishes?” which is not a productive approach, because you’ll receive excuses and defensiveness. Or, you can say “I need help cleaning up the kitchen, what can you do to help?”
In this case instead of criticizing, you are inviting a person to collaborate. It doesn’t mean that they will, but you have much higher chances of them stepping up.
3. Criticism DISCOURAGES Efforts; Feedback INSPIRES New Ideas
When you feel criticized, does it enhance your creativity or kills it? For most people, criticism is discouraging.
If your employee delivered a project short of your expectations, what if instead of pointing out the flaws you said “You are pretty creative, see if you can improve XYZ so that ___________” and express your desirable outcome.
The effective formula to use is:
Genuine Compliment + Suggested Improvement + Clear Desired Outcome
Put these principles into practice with your kids, spouse, or your team, and watch people go an extra mile to deliver their best.
Criticism produces resentments, whereas feedback creates more honesty and openness in communication.
Only positive affirmations create inspiration and progress. Praise and solution-oriented conversations are very effective communication tools.