How to Give And Accept Constructive Criticism

by Jessica Brita-Segyde

Constructive criticism is valuable. When given correctly, it can bestow great benefit upon the receiver. Criticism is essential to academic achievement, business growth, child development, and just about any human endeavor worth pursuing. Criticism, when given with earnest intent, begets growth. Even the Bible mentions criticism and states that a wise person responds to reproach with love (Proverbs 9:8).

To Give Criticism

               When you are on the giving end of constructive criticism, begin with self-reflection. Is your intention to help the person, group, or organization improve? It also helps to think abstractly and view the conversation from the receiver’s perspective. Good intentions on the part of the giver can easily be misconstrued by other parties when emotions are involved. Choose your words carefully, honestly, and objectively. A mature critic is looking for a productive, positive result. For more insight on how to criticize constructively, consider these expert tips:

  • Zig Ziglar – The late, great Zig Ziglar is one of the founders of the self-improvement industry. The com Blog shares some insight on giving constructive criticism. “The key is to criticize the performance and not the performer.” Focus on actions and behaviors that need to change, not on the other person’s character.
  • Mel Robbins – Mel Robins is a speaker and an author, most notably having published the international best-seller The 5 Second Rule. While the majority of her work focuses on motivation and self-discipline, Robbins also provides great insight into interpreting criticism. In a 2018 article she penned for Success Magazine, Robbins instructs the well-meaning critic to reflect on his or her own motives and avoid attacking the recipient. Also, Robbins shares research indicating that constructive criticism is most effective when it is offered one piece at a time.
  • Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend – Dr.’s Cloud and Townsend co-authored the book Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No, To Take Control of Your Life. This masterpiece of self-help explores criticism in many forms and from sources close to the recipient (such as friends and family). When an adult develops healthy emotional boundaries, he or she becomes more likely to deliver criticism via loving versus attacking, say the authors. Criticism and judgement become more about living one’s best life and encouraging others to do the same, and less about controlling or shaming.
  • Brene Brown – Dr. Brown is a veteran researcher and writer who focuses on vulnerability. After a successful TED talk she has also become a well-known speaker. Her website holds a treasure trove of information on giving and receiving criticism. The video “Why Your Critics Aren’t The Ones Who Count” follows Dr. Brown’s presentation at a conference of creatives. At the heart of Dr. Brown’s message is that people who give worthwhile criticism are the same people who are willing to put own work in the public arena, thereby opening themselves to critique.

When it comes to giving constructive criticism, a good question for self-reflection is this: Am I offering this reproach with love in my heart?

To Receive Criticism

To receive gracefully, we must first learn to give gracefully (see above). Consider the importance of finding yourself on the receiving end of constructive criticism. When received well, criticism from a reputable source can serve as a springboard for self-improvement. Do you want to receive and employ criticism in a way that is productive to your character? Here are some published tips from our panel of experts:

Finding oneself on the receiving end of criticism can be tough, but the initial difficulty could give way to something wonderful. Good criticism (i.e. the constructive kind) presents an opportunity for personal growth. Remember to stay mature and consider the source when critics come to call. And if you’re on the giving end of a critique, keep it objective and remember that we’re all in this together. If someone offers a listening ear to your criticism, deliver it with the honest desire to help that person improve.


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