Provided it’s given properly, criticism can be constructive and helpful. Following are some suggestions for how to achieve that.
Always limit criticism to the current situation. Spewing a litany of past transgressions will only obscure the matter at hand and will likely cause your criticism to lose its effectiveness. Focusing on the future as much as possible always makes it easier for the other person to accept constructive criticism.
Although it might be a lot more convenient for you to criticize someone in writing, by email, text, or on the phone, people you criticize deserve the courtesy of being present when you level your guns at them. In addition to being the decent thing to do, it also gives them the opportunity to defend themselves right away should they choose to do so. Also, the recipient will be able to see your facial expression, observe your body language, and hear your tone of voice and inflection, all of which will help him or her gauge the seriousness of the situation.
Never let anyone hear your criticism second-hand. Until you can talk to the person face-to-face, keep your criticism to yourself.
Whenever you can, criticize the fault rather than the person. If it will hurt to criticize someone, you’ll probably do it right; if you’re looking forward to it, hold your tongue.
Praising good things people do is usually more effective than criticizing the bad; and it’s also a lot more enjoyable. So it’s a good technique to begin with praise whenever possible; but be sure it’s genuine and germane to the current circumstances. And if you are even partly at fault for the situation, readily accept your share of the blame right up front.
Although people shouldn’t be overly criticized for making an honest mistake, they should be criticized if they don’t learn from it. And, there’s a time to wink as well as to see. When there is nothing to be gained from criticizing someone, don’t.
Another good approach is to not criticize another person’s idea until you have an alternative to suggest. Considering what alternative you are going to suggest usually results in your being far more objective about the other person’s position.
But when criticism is called for, do it. People who don’t criticize when they should are as wrong as those who don’t praise when they should.
Now let’s turn to receiving criticism.
One of Dale Carnegie’s cardinal rules was: if you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically. Nothing deflates critics quicker than to graciously accept their criticism.
We actually shouldn’t resent criticism. If the criticism isn’t justified, we can ignore it; if it is justified, we can learn from it. And, remember, the only way to escape criticism is to do and say nothing, which is not a very practical way to live.
It’s also good to remember that whatever decision you make, there’s usually someone, somewhere, who will criticize it. So before reacting to criticism, always take into consideration the credibility of the source.
And finally, the people to worry about aren’t those who openly criticize you. The people to worry about are those who disagree with you but don’t tell you.