Positive criticism

Have you ever thought how strong the word “positive” is? It just happened that I thought about it and was amazed by its power. It makes our mind to think of things belonging to the light side (the opposite of “dark side”…. Have you also wondered why it’s so easy to express matters from its dire characteristics? It’s funny when you think of the effects we get when we see the word – positive. Adding the word “positive” to a noun draws our minds to think of better outcome. No wonder you may be convinced that “positive killing”, “positive stealing” and the like, to have a differing meaning to those without the word “positive”.

The same effect is achieved when it is connected with the word “criticism” – coming up with “positive criticism”. It is very true that you may get amazed to find out the differences between the two – ‘criticism’ and ‘positive criticism’. The first sounds ugly and unfriendly: without any solution attached to it. The later, echoes affirmative, encouraging and helpful – more importantly, you can sense a solution attached to it.

Criticism is vital in our everyday life – as it helps to monitor our deeds. On contrary, no one can deny that criticism is the last thing we would wish for, at least for the “honourables”. Who would put a smile after being criticized? Who wants a negative feedback after hours of hard work? No body and indeed no body! ….

Most of us feel to be doing the right, thinking we are the best and thus can’t make mistakes. Self belief and determination is good but when it is overdone tends to be harmful… it is better to realize our weaknesses. In some cases, we may be aware of what’s going wrong but still be reluctant to admit negative feedbacks. Lovers are most likely to fall victim of criticism from their counterparts, however, today let’s not dwell on that.

Very few people if no one at all can handle criticism and those few must have come across what is called “positive criticism”. So what is positive criticism and how can we better understand it? This is a question I want to share with you. Let’s get together for a while and see how we can polish the “conventional criticism” so that we benefit most from its advantages.

Please don’t get mislead by word ‘understand’ thinking that I will dwell on definitions.

What we get from positive criticism is not only the mind setting from the effect of “positive” but the actions/things that we need to keep in mind when using it. The following are things to bear in mind when giving positive criticism.

Personalize your statements

First and foremost, personalize your statements. This implies the use of “I” statements instead of “you” statements. For example, if somebody has delayed in an appointment, and this has made you furious – you can use “I really don’t like it when you are late” instead of “How could you be so late?”

Show the effect

Show how the behavior or action affects you. Taking the above example, the conversation could be like “I really don’t like it when you are late. It is upsetting to me.” Instead of saying “What am I supposed to think?” Or “You always make me angry”

Be specific

Being specific is very helpful for both – the giver and recipient of the criticism. To help you remember all the specific situations, please put this on a paper (remember this will not be the case always). Mention the time, place and frequency of the behavior/language in question.

“During our last meeting, I had waited for 30 minutes, called you twice to find your whereabouts and ordered a taxi which brought you here.” Instead of “You are a complete timewaster” or “You are such an irresponsible person”

Hey! Mind you, this is just an example, never mind the context of the story.

Do not overstate

It’s very likely that we give criticism while we are either frustrated or angered. This lead us to overstate our concerns. We end up using words like “always” and “never” which in most cases they are rarely true, and worse enough, the listener invalidate the statement.

For example, avoid this kind of statements; “You are always late” or “You have never been on time”

Use of proper adjectives

Be careful on the adjectives you use to describe the thinking/behavior/situation you are criticizing. Avoid the use of adjectives that will show venom/anger since this will hamper your comment from being heard.

Instead of saying “you are completely irresponsible, you never care about our business” ….try “Have you considered the fact that we may not succeed with our plan if we continue with this pace?”

Suggest a solution

When offering criticism, it’s wise to also suggest a solution. It’s a very common phenomenon to know good things but yet can’t figure out how to do get them. Have you ever wondered why we know or rather have ideas on how good things look like, worse still we end up doing the opposite. This may apply to a person you want to change, as he/she may have no idea where to start or lacking confidence to pursue a better solution.

In this case, you are dearly responsible to suggest a solution or rather an alternative to what is happening. Imagining the person is a good late comer, the suggestion may sound like “how if you plan your to leave your house 30 minutes earlier? Or “I would really appreciate a call next time you are going to be late”.

On the other hand, you can focus on the cause of the problem perhaps “I would suggest you develop a habit of sleeping earlier so you will wake up early too”.

Be direct

Please do not let the receiver of your criticism to figure out the meaning of what you want to comment. Try to be as direct as possible so that you don’t end up being misinterpreted. I think this is helpful in all settings; a message has to be well defined such that it serves the intended purpose.

Ask for feedback

Find out by asking the person hearing your criticism heard what you meant, not what you said. This can be done by having them repeat back what they think you said needed work and the suggested solution.

“I think you’re saying it’s discomforting and a concern that I keep coming late to our meetings. I can leave home 30 minutes earlier and see if that helps me to come on time. I can also call incase circumstances proves I will be coming late”

Ask if there are any limitations or obstacles keeping them from doing something about their troublesome area.

(For instance, do they agree with your criticism? Do they have a different point of view that will influence your opinion about how it should be handled?)

As applied to all other “positive” thinking issue, it requires inspiration, time and efforts in order to utilize them and realize the successes – the same applies to positive criticism. Be positive, you can!!

Until next issue


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