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Why is support more important than "constructive" criticism?

18.05.2012 - 15:48


Here's a thing about constructive criticism: Most of the time it's not constructive at all. Giving criticism without sounding arrogant all-knowing-asshole takes skill and most of us don't have it.

When most think they are being constructive they end up being nothing but destructive. Being all "honest" and pointing out the mistakes or things that need improvement results in tearing apart, instead of building on. It's not honest, it's just rude.

See, constructive means building on, not tearing down. To be truly constructive the criticism should be able to enhance the good qualities, instead of plain and simple highlighting what's wrong.

Fixating on what's wrong instead of what's right leads to different sort of backlashes. A common reaction is giving up instead of making it better. Or the subject (or the creator of the subject) will just ignore the criticism and the person giving it all together. Nevertheless there's no learning and there's no building on anything.

Actually we humans are prone to criticize ourselves and our own work in a pretty harsh matter. Therefore most of us don't even need other's to point the mistakes out. We know them already and are bummed by them.

Giving support and finding something good to say is challenging as well. Often it's even harder than being all negative. And by something good I mean more than "nice job" or "good work".

Focusing on what's good is way more effective than focusing on what's not good. You know, catching more flies with honey than vinegar. It gives reason to go on and make the good things better.

Here's a little exercise for all of us: Take something you really dislike or just think it's bad (a photo, a book, a website or anything) and find something plain good about. Think about why it's a good thing and how it's a good thing. Now think how the good thing could be emphasized or improved. Remember to be positive and discard all the negative thoughts. Leave sarcasm and irony out of it as well. How did it feel for you?

Suomeksi (In Finnish): 

Rakentavan kritiikin tulisi olla rakentavaa, ei tuhoavaa. Ja se vaatii taitoa. Hyvien puolien esiin tuominen on tuottavampaa kuin huonojen puolien osoittaminen. Huonojen puolien korostaminen johtaa vain erilaisiin vastareaktioihin, kuten luovuttamiseen tai kritiikin huomioimatta jättämiseen. Joka tapauksessa oppimista ja rakentamista ei tapahdu. Kannustaminen ja hyvien puolien löytäminen on myös haastavaa. Se on kuitenkin paljon tehokkaampaa. Nappaat enemmän kärpäsiä hunajalla kuin etikalla. Pieni harjoitus: Etsi käsiisi jotakin josta et tykkää tai joka on mielestäsi huono juttu. Etsi siitä jotakin kerrassaan hyvää. Miksi se on hyvää ja miten se hyvää? Nyt mieti miten sitä hyvää voisi korostaa tai parantaa vielä paremmaksi. Muista olla positiivinen ja heitä mielestäsi kaikki huonot puolet. Jätä myös sarkasmi ja ironia tämän ajatusleikin ulkopuolelle. Miltä se tuntui?

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Mervi Emilia is a web consultant and designer. She has been online since 1997 and making websites for 17 years. Besides web stuff, social media and marketing she likes cats, movies and tea. Follow Mervi at Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn.
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3 replies for "Why is support more important than "constructive" criticism?

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