People, in general, don’t like to be criticized. When I am asked to give a constructive critique, I follow two simple guidelines.
1) Praise Specifically
First, I make an effort to praise specifically. If I am critiquing a lecture, I focus on what went well. If I am critiquing a book, I shine a light on well-written passages and the overall spirit of the book.
The key is to be specific, not general. Most people praise in general terms but criticize specifically.
2) Focus on the Future
Second, I give a constructive critique with a future orientation, that is, I always talk about what can be done better next time.
Focusing on the future is better than focusing on the past. I never say that I “didn’t like” this or that. What is done is done and can’t be changed. If the person receiving the critique is supposed to be able to make changes based on what I say, then my focus must be on the future that can be changed, not on the past that can’t be changed.
Extremely Effective Approach
I have spent thousands of hours in classroom-type settings and this approach has proven to be extremely effective. It usually results in an engaging conversation about possibilities and the missing pieces in the puzzle rather than a shameful silence.
Only a select few can take a bad past-oriented review or scathing critique and grow from it. My approach, as described above, is more likely to result in a positive outcome.
The goal is to inspire, teach, and encourage.
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