Tag Archives: constructive feedback

What do you say when the criticism is exaggerated?

8 Jul

criticism w megaphone

There will be times in your career, when you encounter the criticizer who exaggerates everything—especially mistakes. For example: “I can’t believe this project is such a wreck. If I were to present this to my boss, I’d be the laughingstock of the division. You’re supposed to be my right-hand person—how could you turn in such an awful project and have the nerve to tell me it’s complete?” When the criticism explodes in your face, it’s essential to inspect what is really being said and who is saying it. It’s too early to reject the criticism. Your more immediate concern is to try to uncover some specifics. Take the time to view the giver objectively and examine what’s behind the criticism.


Chances are great that givers who exaggerate do so frequently. Having this insight makes it easier to accept the situation and focus on what’s really being said instead of taking a defensive posture. While defensiveness might be a natural response to being “blasted,” it doesn’t permit the receiver to focus on the criticism for what it is. Perhaps what is behind the criticism and what is making the boss so upset is the receiver’s lack of attention to detail and concern for quality work. Listen to understand, not to judge. Instinct may tell the receiver that the best response is to say nothing at all and to simply wait for an appropriate time to question for specifics. At a later time, when emotions have cooled down, the giver may be more approachable for clarifying specifics.


Another response might be: “I can understand your being upset. I, too, dislike it when work comes in and it’s of a poor quality. It looks as if people don’t take pride in what they do. But I do. Can you tell me exactly what it is you don’t like?”


Agreeing with the giver takes the edge off the criticism and skillfully gets the giver to frame the criticism in more specific terms. It also serves as a catalyst to start discussing corrective action.


Receiving Criticism: Tip #2

21 Nov

Don’t personalize the criticism:

Confidence better enables us to handle criticism because we are not easily threatened. We are able to listen to the criticism without taking it personally and we can more accurately evaluate what is being said. Let’s take a look at the following perspectives that will help you avoid personalizing criticism:

  •   Look at criticism as information. Remember you are the one who colors what’s being said.
  • Identify what you need to do differently. To avoid personalizing criticism, get past what’s being said and how it’s being communicated and focus in on the desired behavior.  Ask for the information you need to achieve the desired behavior, and remember that the information comes from the giver’s perspective, not your own.  Having enough specific information will give you a greater sense of control and the confidence needed to take the corrective action desired and positively move forward.
  • Examine your perspective as the receiver. Whenever you receive criticism, keep in mind that your confidence will play a big part in whether or not you personalize that criticism.  If your boss has just criticized you for several mistakes you have made, and your customer is suddenly upset with you about a couple things, and your mate or loved one starts to criticize you, your confidence may wobble because so many things are happening at once. You are more vulnerable.  This temporary loss of confidence may result in your being more susceptible to personalizing the criticism.
  • Look at the big picture perspective.  Use Bright’s 2-M Simultaneous Focus Quick Charge to put things into perspective and to regain your confidence.  Bright’s 2-M Simultaneous Focus Quick Charge is practiced in the following way:  The first “M” refers to the Macro perspective, the other “m” is the micro or more specific perspective.  Today, it’s not enough to have the big picture focus, or the macro, nor is it effec­tive to operate always in the micro. You need to be able to operate in the micro and the macro simultaneously.  So you want to focus your lens to clearly see both perspectives at the same time. For example, when being criticized, you are in the “micro”- zoom out to the “macro” to recognize that at least that person took the time to say something to you.
  • Remember to inspect the criticism.  Keep in mind that when you are receiving praise, it is very much like criticism.  Both are forms of information that you should develop habits of inspecting. Because we’re creatures of habit, if you take praise “hook, line and sinker,” without inspecting it, chances are that you will take criticism the same way.  Remember to inspect!

Receiving Criticism: Tip #1

16 Nov

Ask yourself if the intent is positive: Pay more attention to the “what” versus the “how”

Being able to sort out the intentions behind the criticism is a valuable way for you to exercise the control that is inherently yours. The giver’s purpose of the criticism should be delivered in such a way that will inspire you to want to bring about a change in behavior that ultimately helps you to perform better or to resolve a situation.


Here’s an example: Just as you walk through the office door, your boss screams at you for not having finished a report the night before. (Notice that you haven’t said anything yet, not even “hello.”) After examining what your boss is saying and questioning his intention, you may conclude that he’s having a bad day and his only intent is to take it out on you. Reaching this conclusion is easier when you and your boss have a relationship rooted in trust and respect.

However, if you are unsure of the giver’s intention, you need to  ask directly, what is the purpose of the criticism.  How this question is asked needs some special consideration in order to avoid adding fuel to a situation that may already be emotionally charged.

When assessing the intent behind the criticism, receivers need to watch out for paying too much attention to “how” the criticism is being communicated than on “what” is being said.

Discussions with hundreds of people during workshops have revealed clues to look for when trying to determine the intent behind criticism. The following are some of the more common clues for you to look for on the part of the giver of criticism. These clues should send an immediate signal to you that the giver’s intent may not be positive.

  • Approaches you knowing that it will upset you
  • Talks in generalities
  • Fails to look you in the eye
  • Is quick to cut you off
  • Exaggerates the criticism
  • Offers no corrective action
  • Compares you to an identified known enemy

If one or more of these clues are present, then you might want to ask for

clarification of the giver’s intention. A good question to ask to clarify the intent behind the criticism is: “How do you want me to take this?” or “How should I take this?” Watch your tone of voice when asking these questions!

Please visit us at: www.drbright.com

Giving Criticism: Tip #7

7 Nov

Tip:  Avoid using, “we”, and “you” and stay in third person when describing a situation. 

Avoid using “we”, “me”, and “you”.  Not using these words makes the criticism less personal, and helps to ensure that the receiver will listen to the criticism and will take the necessary corrective action.

Let’s take Chris for example. Chris has been working to complete a report for over a month and has had to work long hours and on the weekends. After submitting the report to his boss, Tyler, his boss comes to him and says, “You did not get this report completed according to specifications”. Chris immediately begins to feel like a failure and like he let down the boss.  A better way to word this criticism is, “This report is not completed according to the specifications”.

Visit us at: www.drbright.com

Criticism is Inescapable

21 Aug

As we go through our day to day lives, criticism is an inescapable form of communication. Whether in our personal or professional relationships, chances are great that we will be criticized for something we do, or don’t do.

Take the workplace, for example, we can be criticized for failing to keep the boss informed, not delivering a report on time, failing to collaborate with other team members, or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Criticism isn’t limited to the workplace, it follows us home each day. We receive criticism from family members for not cleaning up the bedroom, putting dishes in the dishwasher incorrectly, talking back, etc.

Let’s not forget our friends.  Our friends can criticize us for being late to a birthday party, not returning an item borrowed, or when playing a round of golf being accused of moving too slowly, or hogging the ball in a basketball game.  The examples are endless and by now, you get the picture!

Since criticism is always around us, at work, home, school, and at play, why is it that many of us have not received formal training on how to handle criticism?

When asking managers and non-managers during workshops and seminars, 80% readily admit that prior to attending my program on criticism or constructive feedback, most, if not all admitted to receiving no formal training on the subject of criticism.

Think about your own training: Where did you learn to give and receive criticism? From whom? How long ago? Can you rely on the information you received to help you engage in productive conversations involving criticism?

Like other forms of communication, whether negotiation, debate, and gaining commitment, delivering quality criticism and effectively receiving criticism are skills that can be learned.

As seen in the Strategies for Enhancing Performance (2003-2010) national study involving over 320 participants in an experimental/control design, participants who received training on the subject showed a significant difference in their effectiveness at giving and receiving criticism when compared to those who did not receive the training.

If used effectively, criticism has many possible benefits such as: building trust and respect in relationships, providing valuable learning opportunities for receivers, increasing motivation, and improving overall performance.

If criticism is used improperly, not only can the effects on relationships be damaging, trust and respect for one another can be destroyed, individuals begin to doubt their abilities, and confidence levels can be crushed.

Because criticism is inescapable, and something we have to deal with everyday, learning how to effectively give and receive criticism are valuable skills to be learned and added to life’s tool box.

As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you will be criticized anyway”.

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