Mastering Art of Effective Criticism Takes Practice

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), July 17, 1999 | Go to article overview

Mastering Art of Effective Criticism Takes Practice


Byline: Ken Potts

Last week we talked about what it is like to be on the receiving end of criticism.

We saw that there are six common ways of dealing with criticism, none of which do much good. We also talked about a different way of constructively using people's criticism to help us change for the better.

This week I want to talk about the other side of the coin - giving constructive criticism. I think there are some things we can do as critics to help make receiving criticism a less painful experience.

I want to throw out a word I've used before: carefronting (and thanks again to Dr. David Augburger for introducing me to this idea).

Carefronting is a synthesis of two words: caring and confronting. It refers to a special way of dealing with people that can be helpful as we seek to constructively criticize.

The first step in carefrontingly constructively criticizing is to realize that initially most of us interpret criticism as an attack and rejection. We feel hurt and scared that our relationship is in jeopardy.

As critics, then, we need to accept and anticipate this initial response to our criticism. We also want to help the person we are carefronting move beyond such hurt and fear.

My suggestion is that we say something along these lines: "You know, when I get criticized I feel put down and hurt. At the same time I need people to help me see my mistakes. I want to talk to you about (whatever is on your mind), and I want you to know I'm doing it because I really care."

That may be a bit wordy, but you get the idea. We need to clearly state that our criticism may hurt at first, and that the main reason we are bothering to say anything at all is that the other person is important.

After such an introduction, we can more safely move on to the mistake or fault we want to talk about. We need to make our observations as tentative as possible. "I think," "I believe," "I remember," "it seems to me" are all good phrases to use.

When it comes right down to it, we can really only speak for ourselves, anyway. No matter how right we think our criticism is, it is just the way we see things. We could be wrong. …

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