Criticism vs. Feedback

Do you like being criticized? Does it make you feel like changing to accommodate your critic? In most situations, your answer is probably, “No!” And after some public criticism, you are likely to want to spend the rest of the day hiding from the world, nursing hurt feelings.

Let’s take a closer look at this sensitive subject. Negative criticism is almost always a mistake. Not too many people like being criticized. It brings you down, makes you feel angry and resentful, and rarely provides any opportunity to learn and grow. The effect on a team, department or organizational culture can be paralyzing.

Constructive feedback is a horse of a different color. There is no sting in it, because it is not about your deficient character and it doesn’t come at you like an attack. It is designed to give you valuable information and it assumes you care about doing and being better.

So what is the difference between constructive feedback and criticism? Well, it is the difference between saying, “You never help around the house because you are a slob and you just don’t care,” and saying, “When you forget to help with work around the house, I feel overworked and taken for granted.”

Can you see the difference? The first statement attacks character and sounds like it is coming from a victim. The second states the facts and shares information about feelings without making the other person a villain. All it takes to become an expert in constructive feedback is practice and a willingness to give up judgment and blame. It’s a shift in perspective and language that targets a more positive outcome.

It also helps to remember what your goal is. If you want more conflict, more drama and personal and organizational destruction, go ahead and blame – but be prepared for the fallout of your actions. The fallout ripples out like waves from a stone being dropped in a pond. Everyone is affected, and not in a good way. However, if you want positive action, learn to give constructive feedback instead. It will be appreciated.