Friday, February 17, 2012

Constructive Criticism

Would you mind if I gave you some feedback? What that really means is: do you mind receiving negative feedback that is disguised as constructive criticism?

The problem with criticism is that it challenges our sense of value. It implies judgment and we all recoil from that. Daniel Goleman, internationally recognized psychologist believes, "threats to our esteem in the eyes of others can be so potent that they can literally feel like threats to our survival".

Still, feedback is a necessary process that we can all learn and grow from. So then, how does one go about delivering feedback that has the greatest value? How can you give criticism that is beneficial and absorbed upon by the recipient?

First, what we say is often less important than how we say it. Do not give feedback when you feel that your own value is at risk. We are more likely to be reactive, insensitive and hurtful.

2. In the process of criticism, be considerate of the other person’s value. Even the most well intended criticism will make us feel our value is at risk and under attack. When that happens, the primal impulse is to defend ourselves. The more the person you are criticizing feels compelled to defend their value, the less open they are to absorb what you're saying.

3. Don’t assume you are right. Our stories are not necessarily true, they are simply an interpretation. It makes more sense to offer feedback in a spirit of humble exploration rather than declaration; dialogue rather than monologue and curiosity rather than certainty. Humility is acknowledging that we don’t know, even when we think we know. Steven Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People says: seek first to understand.

We are better off to eliminate words such as feedback and constructive criticism. Instead, we should approach criticism as opportunities for honest inquiry and genuine learning.

Try this out next time you need to give someone feedback: you may say, "here is the story I am telling myself….have I got it right or am I missing something?” This will help you to understand each other better and create open communication.