No matter who you are, you’re probably going to be in a position where you either have to give or receive some feedback. Let’s face it, no one enjoys criticism, constructive or otherwise. It’s never easy to receive feedback from your peers,customers, or boss. And sometimes it’s even harder to share your opinions in a way that will be helpful and non confrontational.
This is why mastering the art of constructive criticism is such a helpful skill to develop. If you want everyone around you to improve a skill from working with a client to writing a blog post, feedback that outlines specific points of improvement can strengthen skills. Sam gave several specific examples in this blog post.
Here are some tips on how to provide constructive feedback to someone about their work without sounding like a complete jerk.
Focus On the Work
This may seem obvious but focus on providing feedback on the work, not the person. Providing criticism that’s targeted at the individual will almost always make for an awkward and uncomfortable situation. This will do nothing to incite or inspire a positive change. For example, try saying “I think your writing could use more reputable and scholarly examples” instead of “your writing is childish.” By approaching it this way, you’re able to divert the criticism to that person’s actions rather than themselves. Not only does this make an awkward situation much more comfortable, but it also makes it actionable.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in everything wrong with a situation, but don’t let that overshadow the positives. Although criticism is typically used to discuss what improvements need to be made, that doesn’t mean a compliment or two can’t be thrown into the mix. The best way to approach critiquing someone else’s work is to sandwich the feedback with love. It’s important that the person understands their strengths and weaknesses. Be sure to compliment the person on their strengths. Valuable comments will only make them stronger!
Now that you’ve provided your feedback to someone, it’s important that you provide recommendations. How can they improve? What should they be doing instead? Everyone has varying perspectives, which means every comment can be interpreted in different ways. Giving recommendations will give the person a clear idea of what you have in mind! Recommendations provide a strong call-to-action.
Research suggests that specific recommendations lead to higher levels of task performance. However, this advice needs to be achievable. Setting specific goals ensures that any comments and/or recommendations made can be turned into actionable items. That way, real changes will be made.
If you’re anything like me, a lot of your work is based upon critiques from others. The critiques I receive help me become a better writer, a better listener, and an overall better person. Understanding how to effectively give critiques will help you make the best of what might be an uncomfortable position. Plus, you’ll be helping more people (like me) find their way to success.
Don’t forget to throw in a compliment every now and then. By providing a compliment, the person won’t feel so attacked when receiving feedback. Compliments help soften the blow and make it obvious that you’re there to help. At the end of the day, all you’re really trying to do is make a real change.
If you’re interested in learning more about the importance of constructive criticism, Lesley Jane Seymour of CoveyClub discusses reinvention and the importance of providing feedback in this episode of More than a Few Words.