Five tips for delivering effective criticism

Most of us fret about confrontation and delivering criticism. But if we’re going to take on increased responsibilities, and continue to be effective as we move forward in life, we have to learn this skill.

Recently I needed a refresher course on this topic, and I found some really useful information online from Claudine Paris. Think about her guidelines before you have to sit down for your next heart-to-heart talk with someone.

  1. Think it through. Figure out what you’re really trying to accomplish with your criticism. You should mentally rehearse your delivery and try to anticipate the receiver’s response.
  2. Criticize in private, and praise in public. Public criticism makes everyone uncomfortable, and it makes you look as though you’re too cowardly to address the issue one on one. If an issue arises during a team meeting, acknowledge the problem but say it needs to be addressed “privately between Dan and me.”
  3. Be timely in your criticism, and take only one point at a time. If there are several behaviors to address, decide which one will result in the greatest gains if resolved and focus on that one. Don’t let it fester. By acting quickly and focusing on one issue, you’ll often find that improvements start to be seen in other areas as well.
  4. Criticize without comparison. People never respond well to comments like, “You need to be more like John” or “Last year’s team was so much better.” Just give people the direction they need to improve their performance, and help them do so.
  5. Be specific, and don’t use labels. There’s nothing very helpful about telling someone that he or she is sloppy, lazy or inattentive. Instead, keep the conversation focused on evidence-based behaviors that can be improved, such as inaccuracy, incompleteness, lack of follow-through or failure to solicit client feedback or input. Behaviors can be measured, documented and corrected. Labels can’t.

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