Posts Tagged: advice

Apr 19

Giving and taking criticism

With love.

That’s the high level summary, but what does that mean in practice? And how did I get to that conclusion anyway?

In my first arts degree we had regular ‘crits’ at the end of each project brief. We’d lay out our wares in the corridor, supporting work and final pieces, and our work was marked by the lecturers. After the marking we’d all congregate in the corridor, and watch as each student was either pulled to shreds or had their ego massaged. Whether this was a good or bad thing was always highly subjective and ALWAYS resulted in several students going back to their workspaces in near-tears.

As a result I spent 3 years of my life learning that there was a good way to criticise someone, and some very nasty bad ways. I would often find myself as being one of the people who would go and offer support to those who had been torn to shreds. Sometimes I agreed with the criticism, but not how it was delivered, and sometimes I also did not agree with the criticism, and felt it was my duty to give a different perspective.

  1. Everyone needs encouragement. If you cannot find anything encouraging to say then you are not qualified to give criticism. Why? because encouragement is the thing that motivates the person being criticised to take action, and without encouragement, you simply demotivate and demoralise them.
  2. Accept that everyone makes mistakes. If you are the giver, this means you have to remember that this could so easily be you and deliver it humbly and preferably with real examples of where you encountered a similar situation and how you dealt with it. If you are the taker, you need to get to a point where you realise that the person giving you the criticism is trying to help you shortcut a learning they made before.
  3. Be constructive. If something needs to change, and you can see why, but someone else can’t, then you have to help them see why the criticism you are delivering is necessary. This might be by explaining how it is having an impact and give them a way to resolve it for themselves.
  4. Let them take control. With the best will in the world, it is rare that you can help someone who does not want to be helped. Often people get to a point where they feel like they have lost control and that there is no point to what they are doing. So be clear that they are free to ignore your advice and make their own decisions, and that you will support them in that as best you can.
  5. With love. When you love someone you want the best for them. You want to see them grow, to flourish, to bloom. You want to see them achieving their dreams and being the most amazing person they can be.

If everyone gave criticism with love we’d all have a much better time taking it. We’d be able to move on more quickly and have the input we need to work stuff out for ourselves.

If everyone took criticism with love, or looked for the love in the criticism, we’d know that the other person was doing their best to use their life experiences to help us. If we can’t see the love in the criticism then we shouldn’t take it on board without evaluating it carefully, as it may be meant to hurt us or hold us back.

It’s not easy.