Common Criticism Mistakes – Part 1

30 Jun

For criticism to be accepted and acted upon, it needs to be sincere and its purpose needs to be genuinely perceived to be of help. The giving of criticism is a skill that, when managed properly, can change relationships and people’s lives for the better. Unfortunately, the lack of resources and proper training on the subject of giving (and receiving) criticism has led to a mixed bag of approaches – and while some of them are of value, many have introduced skills and insights that have only added to the confusion.

To gain an understanding of some of the common mistakes made when giving criticism, let’s discuss some basic types of givers. I’ve identified ten giver archetypes – lets briefly look at five of them here:

  •  Quick Draw Givers: These givers “call it as they see it.” They usually speak before they think and typically overlook where and when they choose to give criticism. Their approach is based upon an emotional reaction with little thought to the consequences. As such, they often open themselves up to embarrassment when they are shown to be wrong, misinformed, or inappropriate.
  • More About Me Givers: These givers generally like to deliver criticism according to how they prefer to receive it. They are more about the “me” and making themselves feel comfortable than they are about taking into consideration the preferences and needs of the person receiving the criticism. The goal when giving criticism is not to be comfortable; rather, the goal is to be effective!
  • Hey You! Givers: These givers personalize the message rather than using an instructive tone by constantly referring to “you” throughout the delivery of the criticism. What these givers fail to recognize is that receivers are already on guard for personal attacks and so when receivers hear “you” frequently, the underlying message they pick up on is one of blame. As a result, receivers suspect that these types of givers may not have their best interest in mind.
  • Guessing Game Givers: These givers make the mistake of letting receivers guess what actions they need to take to correct a situation. A lack of specificity, such as in the phrase, “You need to be more organized,” or “You need to take more initiative” not only takes a personal focus (see Hey You! Givers above) but leaves the receiver walking away from the exchange unclear on what exactly they need to do.
  • Donut Hole Givers: These givers resemble “Guessing Game” givers because they lay out a general problem but fail to fill in the holes with any specific examples – leaving receivers confused about what is being done wrong. These givers base their criticism on nonspecific or questionable assertions, which leaves the receiver often feeling resentful or unfairly criticized.

We will take a look at five other common mistakes typically made by givers in my next blog.

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