Constructive criticism

From Academic Kids

Constructive criticism is the process of offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about the work of others, usually involving both positive and negative comments, in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one. In collaborative work, this kind of criticism is often a valuable tool in raising and maintaining performance standards.

Because of the overuse of negative, nagging criticism, some people become defensive even when receiving constructive criticism given in a spirit of good will. Constructive criticism is more likely to be accepted if the criticism is focused on the recipient's work or behavior. That is, personality issues must be avoided as much as is possible. Critical thinking can help identify relevant issues to focus on.

Especially sensitive individuals may adopt a passive, defeated attitude if they view a situation as personal, pervasive, or permanent (see learned helplessness). Others may adopt an aggressive response. In an online forum lacking face-to-face contact, constructive criticism can be easily misinterpreted and online exchanges often spiral out of control, becoming flamewars. Effective interpersonal communication skills can be helpful to assess the recipient's frame of mind. During initial exchanges or when encountering defensive individuals, effective criticism calls for softer language and inclusion of positive comments. When the recipient strongly identifies with contentious areas (such as politics or religion), non-offensive criticism becomes challenging.

On the other hand, stronger language can sometimes break through a defensive shell. Further, many people (both as providers and even recipients of criticism) appreciate a blunt style. They see bluntness as honest and efficient while viewing softer approaches as manipulative, condescending, tedious, or confining. Often, such people view stronger exchanges as lively and engaging.

Adopting the most effective style of criticism should be tempered by the cultural context, the recipient's personality, and nature of the relationship between provider and recipient. To assess a situation, one should put out exploratory feelers and initially adopt a perceptive rather than judgmental attitude; conflict resolution skills can be helpful.

As a recipient of criticism, one can benefit by focusing on the constructive elements of the criticism and by attributing charitable interpretations to those who use strong language. By adopting an open attitude to criticism, one can achieve greater personal growth and help uncover blind spots. Alternatively, such openness may be subjected to ridicule especially in a cynical or honor-based culture.


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