How to “Criticize” with Compassion

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The only thing harder than taking constructive criticism is giving it. There’s a fine line between offering helpful feedback and totally derailing someone’s confidence.

While you can’t control how others will react or perceive your words, you can do everything in your power to communicate constructively, so your message is heard loud and clear, without the negative undertones.

Throw Some Sugar in Their Wounds

Otherwise known as the “sandwich” approach, aim to offer compliments along with your criticism.  

During a feedback session, start off by complimenting the employee and letting them know what they’re doing well — this will help lighten the mood and let them know you’re not there simply to “diss” them.

You can then follow-up with the criticism or opportunity for growth, followed by yet another positive thing. The key is to be genuine in your positive points. Otherwise, you’ll come across as patronizing, simply trying to sugarcoat what you really want to say.

In short: Compliment + Criticism + Compliment

Give Feedback, Not Orders

You can share feedback without telling someone what they have to do. It’s one thing to tell an employee you’re concerned about their attire in the office.

It’s another to tell them to stop wearing short skirts and start wearing slacks. You’re still able to get your point across without being overly aggressive in the process.

Align your criticisms with what you observe and how it impacts the business, team, clients or particular outcomes. Identify the problem, then give space for the employee to fix it. If this method won’t work, you can help the employee fix the problem by doing the following…

Make Your Expectations Clear

While your expectations may be crystal clear in your own head, they’re liable to a million different interpretations by the other person. For example, telling a team member “Your conduct is unacceptable,” is vague and unhelpful.

Instead, try something like, “It’s important you arrive on-time to our meetings, as a way of showing respect to the business and our team.”

Be specific about the results you’d like to see and what you expect to change, as well as why it’s important those changes are made. Make the pathway to improvement accessible.

Don’t Make It Personal

When you’re delivering feedback, the biggest mistake you can make is to make it personal. If your reason for giving criticism is somehow tied to your own ego, a personal vendetta or malicious in anyway, stop right now.

The point of criticism, if you really want the best, is to be constructive; ill intentions are one way to ensure positive results are not achieved.

Formulate your criticism in a way that makes the other understand you don’t believe it to be a reflection of who they are as person — it’s strictly business. For example, saying “you’re lazy” is a lot less effective and mean-spirited than, “I know you could put in more effort.”

We Can Help!

Is your current leadership missing the mark when it comes to employee feedback? Or, do you lack the bandwidth to support and train your team effectively?

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How to "Criticize" with Compassion
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Are you struggling to offer feedback or criticism to your employees without making it sound ill-intentioned? Learn how to criticize with compassion and make sure your message is heard.
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POSTED ON: Leadership
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