Giving, Taking Criticism is About Learning from Mistakes
Dear Dr. LeCrone:
I have always had difficulty in both giving and receiving criticism. My parents were very critical of me when I was growing up, and I know that I lack self-confidence. Being unsure of myself probably makes it hard for me to provide any negative feedback to others because I am very afraid of their rejection.
Please write on the topic of criticism in your newspaper column.
-A reader in North Carolina
You are correct in stating that our ability to give and receive criticism is often heavily influenced by our own experience and past response to criticism. One of the first tasks in critiquing another’s performance is to consider exactly why we feel the need to critique or criticize. Consult with a colleague when you need to determine if there is legitimate reason to proceed.
If criticism is warranted the following suggestions may be helpful:
-Attempt to start with a positive, sincere statement about the individual’s performance before proceeding with any criticism.
-Make objectivity one of your primary concerns. Focus on the problem, not the person.
-Avoid hearsay and rumors. Be specific, using documented facts where necessary and possible.
-Don’t attempt to critique another person’s performance when you are upset or mad. Cool off, calm down and try to make the communication as free from emotion as possible.
-Communicate concerns in a private, quiet place, free from distraction and observation by other people. At times, it is helpful or even necessary to have another person in attendance for future verification. If this is necessary, avoid the perception of “ganging up “on the person being confronted. Let the third person be present but uninvolved.
-When receiving criticism, ask for specific details of what is expected of you. Ask the person critiquing you: “What were the goals you had hoped I would reach?” Reply with a statement like: “Please help me understand the best ways to accomplish my job and provide you with the feedback you need.”
-The best response to any critical statement should be to listen first. Then ask yourself: “How can I use this information to the benefit of everyone concerned?”
-To take criticism properly, remember that healthy criticism is intended as instruction. We all learn by mistakes, and we can all learn from constructive criticism if we use it to improve our performance.
Harold H. LeCrone, Jr., Ph.D. Copyright ©2007