When should you criticize someone directly?

Constructive criticism: formulate it correctly and accept it better

In the professional world - but also in our private lives - we keep coming into contact for criticism. Sometimes we criticize ourselves and point out to our fellow human beings their mistakes and sometimes we ourselves become a target. Criticism is an important means of communication and exchange and as such is indispensable. However, it can also be hurtful and do the exact opposite. This is especially the case when the criticism cannot be described as constructive. But what exactly is constructive criticism? How do you best formulate or express criticism and can you also learn to deal with it better? Find out in this post.

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1. Definition: what is criticism?
2. What is constructive criticism?
3. This is how you formulate constructive criticism
4. What is not constructive criticism?
5. Correct handling of criticism

What is criticism?

If a person, a work, a book, a play or something is criticized, then it is one evaluationthat not infrequently also with a Questioning and always with reflection goes hand in hand. Contrary to what is often assumed, criticism does not necessarily have to be negative. There is definitely positive criticism, too Benevolence and recognition pronounces. Positive criticism can also simply be called praise are designated.

Criticism is generally divided into the following sub-forms:

  • Positive criticism
  • Negative review
  • Constructive criticism
  • Destructive criticism
  • Self-criticism

What is constructive criticism?

While positive and negative criticism only states whether something or someone is rated good or bad, constructive criticism goes one step further. Those who practice constructive criticism not only show what was good and what was not good, but also make suggestions for improvement at the appropriate points. Analytical observation and the ability to think outside the box and alternatively are indispensable for this.

Info: Synonyms for constructive include beneficial, fruitful, beneficial, useful, pertinent and helpful. This once again makes it very clear what the task of constructive criticism is.

Furthermore, constructive criticism is always characterized by its formulation. She is always:

  • polite and respectful
  • in a nutshell (and not unnecessarily excessive)
  • reflective
  • trying to find the optimal solution

This is how you formulate constructive criticism

Even if everyone tries to criticize constructively, this project does not always succeed. Formulating conducive criticism is one of the supreme disciplines in dealing with colleagues. The following examples will help you to express your criticism in such a way that it can really be described as constructive.

  • “While reading, I noticed that you…. At this point I think it would be better if we ... "
  • “My research has shown that XY is not possible. What do you think if we instead .. "
  • “I do not agree with aspect XY. I have already thought about this and would like to suggest that we ... "

Important: Constructive criticism is always “on point”. Do not be afraid to name specific mistakes and use them to make suggestions for improvement. A general criticism like "Well, you have delivered something ..." simply cannot be constructive.

What is not a constructive criticism?

Are you still not quite sure how you will formulate your constructive criticism in the future? Maybe it will help you if we show you what again no constructive, i.e. destructive, criticism.

Destructive criticism is aimed solely at promoting an idea, a finished product, etc. to reject and preferably complete to discard. Reflection, suggestions for improvement, analysis? None of it!

One of the most common mistakes when it comes to criticism, which is meant to be constructive but reaches the recipient in a destructive manner, is the tactic of putting honey around the mouth of the other person. Consoling formulations like "That was really nice, but ..." are not only meaningless, but also degrading and subliminally disrespectful.

Another big problem is a generalized criticism that relates, so to speak, to the entire work. This may be clear (the critic simply thinks everything is bad), but it still doesn't get you anywhere. Here it becomes clear why, in the case of constructive criticism, it is so important to refer to specific points and examples.

Furthermore, criticism should never show or demean the recipient. Feedback that clearly begins to be negative can in no way be constructive. The classic "What were you thinking here?" Is just one of many examples.

Info: A review that begins with “In My Opinion…” is not a judgment based on analysis and fact. In this case, too, one cannot speak of constructiveness.

Destructive criticism can be summarized as follows:

  • devastating
  • generalizing
  • clearly judging
  • non-analytical and reflective
  • guilty

Tip: If you are looking for a practical example of destructive criticism, all you have to do is watch the casting show "Deutschland sucht den Superstar" and listen to the words of juror Dieter Bohlen. The so-called "pop titan" is the undisputed master of devastating criticism.

By the way: If the words you choose suggest constructive criticism, but your body language says something different (for example, rolling your eyes, wrinkling your nose, etc.), you have also missed your target. Relevant criticism must be meant seriously. Disparaging signals in facial expressions and gestures suggest the opposite.

Correct handling of criticism

Now that we know what constitutes constructive, that is, beneficial, criticism and how it is best formulated, it is time to look at the other side of the coin. After all, those who hand out have to be able to take it in. In other words: those who criticize must also be able to allow themselves to be criticized. We all know that this is anything but easy.

The ability to criticize is the art of accepting feedback. It doesn't sound that difficult, does it? One of the reasons for this is that I have just replaced the word “criticism” with “feedback” - a little psychological trick with a big impact. In fact, constructive criticism is nothing more than feedback (which can be both positive and negative). If you internalize this way of thinking, you have already taken the first step towards improved critical skills. Feedback implies a very important insight: Anyone who gives you feedback (or criticizes them constructively) does not want to harm you, they want to help!

Another big problem with dealing with criticism is that many people take it personally and thereby allow it to get too close to them. Make a note of one thing: Professional criticism is not directed at you as a person, but at most on your work. You as a person are not the subject of criticism.

If you are criticized (in whatever situation), this represents an attack situation for most of the people. The reflex-like train of thought: My counterpart is attacking me, so I have to do the same. Defiance, justification, and a dismissive posture are typical reactions when a person cannot handle the criticism that is being leveled at them. Everyone knows situations like this. If you want to do better next time, here's a tip to keep in mind: Do not see the criticism as an attack, but see it as an opportunity to do better. Your counterpart does not want to attack you, but rather to help you develop (professionally). For this you should to be thankful.

Additional tip: Taking criticism personally and seeing it as an attack are two aspects that are closely related. If you want to work on your critical ability, it helps to take a certain distance from your counter-reaction and to look at the criticism in isolation.

How do you react to negative, but constructively formulated criticism? Not by getting lost in disordered justifications. Step # 1 should always be to listen carefully to your critic and give him the opportunity to say whatever is on his mind. Then it's your turn. If necessary, make notes on points that you want to follow up or ask again. A profitable criticism conversation lives from the fact that both sides understand each other and can follow the words of the other.

However, being capable of criticism does not only mean listening to the feedback from others, but also accepting it. At this point, opinions are likely to split. Does the ability to criticize mean accepting everything without objection or is it possible to reject certain aspects? As is so often the case, it is probably a matter of finding a healthy middle ground. Those who do not accept a point of criticism have not really understood what it is about. Those who say “yes and amen” to everything, on the other hand, risk being classified as spineless.

Summary: Dealing with criticism correctly

  • Understand criticism as feedback
  • Do not see this as an attack but as an offer to help
  • Never take criticism personally
  • Establish a healthy distance to keep your head clear
  • do not react impulsively (with defiance, justification, contradiction, etc.)
  • instead: listen and let them finish
  • ask if something is not understood
  • decide for yourself which points you take on
  • do not say "yes and amen" to everything, but reflect, develop, take up, etc.

The line between constructive and destructive criticism is extremely fine. Hardly anyone manages to master it without problems. Both in the case of criticizing and accepting criticism, the following applies: Practice makes perfect. Do not be afraid of such situations, but value open communication between colleagues. If you're new to criticizing, it can be helpful to get feedback for your feedback. Feel free to ask your interlocutor specifically what he liked about the criticism and what, in his opinion, was not constructive. In this way you develop a trusting relationship on an equal footing and can learn for future discussions.

The subject of criticism is undoubtedly a very sensitive one. Everyone has had experiences with it that were both positive and negative in nature. We would be delighted if you would share your experience with us.

Photo credit: Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

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