Tag Archives: criticism expert

Receiving Criticism: Tip #3

27 Nov

Avoid responding defensively and keep your emotions in check

Taking control as the receiver means that if you typically get defensive when criticism is delivered, you may find it helpful to say nothing.  When you’ve had a chance to think about the situation you can also go back to the giver and calmly discuss things further.  Again, it is helpful- especially where criticism is involved- to avoid letting your emotions rule.


If you do not exert any control over your emotions when being criticized, you will more than likely say something that you will regret later.  Learning how to accept criticism as information without becoming defensive is a very important communication skill.


Here’s an all too familiar situation where avoiding the tendency of speaking first proved to be beneficial.

Amber has spend several hours working on a project over the weekend for her boss, Sandra. When meeting with Sandra on Monday, Amber feels very prepared and excited to discuss the project.  Unexpectedly, after presenting the information, Sandra says, “I think you need to do some more work… I don’t think we are able to make a decision based on what you are telling me”.  Amber begins to feel her face turn red as her stress level rises. Rather than express her feelings of frustration, Amber takes a deep breath, says nothing, and thinks to herself, “this is only information… even though I did spend a lot of time on this, it is not about me, or my life… it is a project that needs more work”. 


More than likely, if Amber said what she was thinking at that moment, she would have regretted it later. The consequences could have been detrimental to her career and/or her relationship with her boss.  If after the criticism exchange Amber feels as if she needs to discuss anything further with her boss, she can set up a meeting at a later time. After all, unbeknownst to many people, it’s the receiver who is in control! Amber can always go back to her boss and clear the air.

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!

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Receiving Criticism: Introduction

16 Nov

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, criticism is the most rapid and efficient communication tool for improving performance and creating change whether at work or at home.

However, for criticism to be effective, it requires a receptive receiver. The next few blogs zero in on what it takes to become that receptive receiver to criticism. After all, who looks forward to being criticized? For starters, as the receiver, you need to learn how to distinguish quality criticism: criticism that is meant to help from poor quality criticism or the type of criticism that is meant to hurt.

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”.

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Giving Criticism: Tip #6

5 Nov

Tip: Keep the criticism in- bounds

When giving criticism, it is important to consider whether the criticism is in-bounds. When criticism is in- bounds, then the receiver is more receptive. One important factor to consider is timing.   If the giver is in a bad mood and has a lot going on in his or her personal life, delivering criticism is out of bounds. The same is true for the receiver. If the receiver is depressed or sad, he or she may not be able to focus completely on the criticism and the message will not be received as intended. If you are unsure about the timing, ask the receiver.

For example, Paul has been out of the office all day in meetings and when he returns, his assistant, Jennifer gives him a report that is full of errors. Rather than immediately criticizing Jennifer, Paul says, “Jennifer, I don’t know what you have had to deal with today but we need to discuss this report. There are things that need to be changed. Is now a good time?”

By asking the receiver shows respect and helps to assess whether the receiver is receptive emotionally.  When givers assess the timing of the receiver they help to ensure a productive exchange because they are showing empathy for the receiver while simultaneously attempting to address a particular situation. 

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Giving Criticism: Tip #5

2 Nov

Tip:  Engage the receiver in the solution – “How can you do it better?”

When determining how the receiver can correct their behavior, or do something better, if you do not have the solution, or know the corrective action ask the receiver his or her ideas. Engaging the receiver in how to correct the situations establishes a trust between the giver and receiver and strengthens the relationship.

For example, Vivian’s employee has been producing reports with grammatical errors, which is causing Vivian to have to spend additional time editing them. Vivian simply says, “you need to improve your grammar skills”.  More than likely, the employee is going to say, “Ok” and nothing will happen.  Here is the same criticism, but has value and engages the receiver in the solution, “You mentioned to me in the past that you would like to write a book some day. Keep in mind that if you want to achieve that goal, you need to have better grammar skills. What ideas do you have for improving your grammar?”  The employee responds by saying, “How about I take a grammar refresher class at the community college?” 

 In this example, Vivian asks her employee what ideas she has to improve her grammar skills which allows for the criticism to be well received and strengthen their relationship.

Giving Criticism: Tip #4

26 Oct

Tip: Make sure the focus of the conversation is on how to mentally take corrective action

Before giving another person criticism, it is very important to determine the corrective action, or the desired behavior upfront.  Doing this prior to saying anything ensures that the criticism is intended to help. After all, once the giver opens his/her mouth, the control shifts to the receiver. If you do not know what the corrective action is, the criticism will need to be delayed, aborted, or revised.

For example, one of Bob’s employees continues to ask questions that she should be able to answer on her own. Bob finally loses his composure and says, “You keep interrupting me with these stupid questions!  Why are you so dumb?”  This kind of criticism is not intended to help the receiver take action. It is destructive and its purpose is to temporarily relieve the giver. Even though the giver may feel better in the short run, what’s possibly jeopardized in the long run is a quality working relationship. Bob needs to “think before delivering criticism” in order to make sure he knows the corrective action upfront. Otherwise, he needs to revise his delivery. The next tip will provide some valuable insights. 

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