Do you know that part of being charitable is giving constructive criticism? When we give feedback to others, we help them improve and become better in so many ways. Unfortunately, many people are not willing to give constructive criticism for fear of offending the person or causing a conflict situation.
Alternatively, there are many people who don’t know how to give negative feedback empathically, and that too can cause conflict. They may be too harsh when giving their critique, perhaps even with malicious intent.
There are several instances in which proper feedback is beneficial and even necessary. In the workplace, employees need to know which areas they can improve on in order for them to do better in their job. In school, feedback is an essential aspect of learning and assessment.
Therefore, the way criticism is delivered is a key factor in how the other person will respond. There are certainly some people who are more open to valid criticism and who recognize that they need it, while there are just as many who are defensive, as they feel their weaknesses are being criticized. This is where providing constructive criticism can lead to conflict.
Here are some steps that you can use whenever you need to give constructive criticism:
Constructive criticism should always be objective. Attacking the person directly and highlighting their mistakes will simply make them more defensive. Whatever constructive criticism you intend to give, it should be based on an observable behavior or a concrete action. Avoid giving criticism based on something that you heard another person say. Keep in mind that you want the person to improve, so keep the conversation along the lines of helping them improve.
State Your Intention and Desired Outcome Clearly
Before giving constructive criticism, the purpose and intention should be clear to you and the other person to avoid conflict. If it is unclear as to why you are giving constructive feedback, the person may feel personally attacked. Let them know straight up that you are giving constructive feedback to help them grow and improve.
Another way to avoid conflicts is to communicate your reason for critiquing due to achieving a particular outcome. There is no need to dwell on their behavior or actions, but instead, focus on the desired outcome and help the other person come up with ways on how they can improve to reach that objective.
Start the Criticism Positively
If you plan to give constructive criticism, look for something positive first. There is usually at least one positive with every negative. If you can do this, you are letting the other person feel that you don’t see fault in everything they do. Once you begin the feedback you want to give, they will be more open to listening to what you have to say, rather than already preparing their defense on what they see as an attack from you.
The goal is to have them feel that the constructive criticism you are giving is to help them. This can boost their self-esteem and also make them more receptive to your feedback in the future.
However, it is good to be positive, but don’t overdo it with fluff and insincere praise. This will diminish your control and not help the person at all. They may lose the meaning you intended to give.
Choose Your Words Carefully and Watch Your Body Language
Always try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. How would you feel if someone was being critical of you and highlighting your mistakes? Would you feel attacked? In many cases, of course, you would.
To avoid conflicts when providing feedback, choose your words carefully to reflect your true intention – and that is to help the person and the outcome. Watch your tone and facial expressions, as these are also key factors in communication. Practice empathy and kindness as much as possible.
Highlighting another person’s flaws is never an easy task. But giving constructive criticism, when done with the right intentions and delivered with empathy, can make a big difference to others.
Always remember your goal, and that is to be of help to the other person.