How to create a culture of continuous improvement

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Criticism is always unpleasant, and those who claim to love criticism are lying.

Constructive criticism is a gentle form of remark that is hard to take offense at. The focus should be on ways to correct mistakes, not on the person being criticized or the terrible consequences of his or her actions.

Rules for constructive criticism

It’s hard to accept being criticized, but there is criticism that is hard to take offense at – constructive criticism. Its essence is to focus not on what is bad, but on what you can do to make it better. For example, you might say, “You did well, but I think the result would be better if you changed this…”.

The aim of constructive criticism is not only to identify a problem, but also to solve it. It is based on the desire to help the person and is directed at a specific problem.

Constructive criticism has its antipode, which is nonconstructive criticism. Unlike constructive criticism, it is not aimed at helping to solve a problem, but at humiliating and insulting your opponent.

Interestingly, well intentioned and seemingly constructive criticism cannot be called as such if the person to whom it is directed perceives it negatively.

Example of constructive criticism

An editor reads a text translation and sees errors in it. He says to the translator: “I’m glad you were the one to take on this translation. Unfortunately, there are some mistakes. This sentence is close to the original, but you cannot say so in English. The right thing to do would have been…”.

An example of unconstructive criticism

If an editor says in this very case: “What are you translating there? It is impossible to read – a lot of mistakes. It is as if the translation was done by someone who hit his/her head pretty hard,” it is not a constructive criticism.

By criticizing in this manner, it is easy to get aggressive, hostile and ruin the relationship for life. Criticism in this way can easily lead to aggression, hostility and ruin a lifelong relationship.

How do you learn to criticize “constructively”?

It is not possible to do without criticism at all, nor is it necessary. It is essential in both business and personal relationships. Without it, it is impossible to solve problems and move forward.

Erian Schultz wrote: “Why are we afraid of criticism? Because criticism, in fact, teaches us, and for free.”

If you criticize intelligently, you can maintain good friendships or partnerships and at the same time make your point.

But for criticism to be productive rather than offensive and insulting, you need to be aware of a few rules.

Pay attention to the tone in which you express your grievances. Most people respond adequately to friendly treatment. At the same time, with people who divide everyone into strong and weak, it is better to speak firmly and harshly (but not rudely).

The rules of constructive criticism allow for agreement, so even if you are tempted to make fun of someone or are tempted to express irony and sarcasm, it is best to avoid such a display of emotion. Constructive criticism does not tolerate disrespect, rudeness or aggression.

You must radiate sincerity, openness and a desire to improve the situation.

The person you are criticizing constructively needs to understand exactly what you want to say. Because if you don’t want to offend him, you may take it to the other extreme – half-heartedly and in general terms, beating around the bush with your “diplomatic” skills, which will “lose” the object of the criticism. One should not forget that one should not get into personalities in the process of criticism. The criticism should not be of the person himself, but of his actions.

If, for example, your friend has made a mistake, you should not say: “You fool! How could you do such a thing?”.

Constructive criticism implies something like this: “You are smart, sensible, and acted recklessly!”.

When criticizing another person, you should not impose your own vision of the solution to the problem. For example: “You were imprudent – don’t go there again!”. Such an imposition of an opinion may cause the person to want to do the opposite, so it is better to express it not in such a categorical form, but in the form of a sentence: “You acted carelessly – maybe you shouldn’t go there anymore?

Criticizing someone who has realized they have made a mistake is not the right thing to do. Criticism should be aimed at helping them out of their situation – there is no such thing as a dead end.

For a man who is “in a jam”, unconstructive criticism can only make him despondent.

Criticism was productive and effective, so that people understand their mistakes, and you can count on understanding, it is important to choose the right time. Of course, you should not approach the person with criticism, even with the best of intentions, when he or she is in difficult circumstances or in a bad mood (the latter often applies to personal relationships). In this case, criticism will only exacerbate his condition.

In order to criticize someone, it is worth thinking not only about the right time but also about the right place. Unfortunately, it is common to see a husband criticizing his wife or wife criticizing her husband in front of other people. Such criticism cannot be constructive a priori, even if the person criticizing is absolutely right.

Therefore, if you are going to criticize someone “constructively”, be it a colleague, a friend or a loved one, care must be taken to ensure that there are no outsiders. Public criticism cannot be constructive – it will offend and humiliate the person and do no good.

Before you start criticizing someone, albeit fairly, you can first mention your own shortcomings or mistakes made in the past. Self-criticism will enable the person being criticized not to feel hurt, and it will be easier for them to admit and correct their mistakes.

To prevent someone from getting discouraged by our criticism, it is worthwhile to remind them of their strengths and find something to praise them for before we engage in criticism. Someone of the great ones said: “The critic puts the critic to sleep with chloroform of praise and then operates.”

Before you start making critical remarks, you need to imagine the possible response of the person. Everyone is different and criticism is also perceived differently, and an individual approach is needed. A vulnerable and sensitive person is treated differently from a swaggering or arrogant person. If a person is diligent, suspicious and vulnerable, he or she should be treated gently.

With a person who is arrogant, gentleness will not work – they will perceive it as insecurity and weakness, so you need to be firm here. However, it is important not to overdo it so as not to hurt his ego.

Care should be taken with criticism of people with low self-esteem. If a person is pragmatic and selfish, it is worth hinting that he or she may benefit from criticism. It is easier to communicate with people who have a sense of humor. Of course, if it is not alien to the one who criticizes. Anyone should know the rules of constructive criticism: it will help build sincere relations both in private life and at work. If one cannot act according to the rules, it is better not to try to criticize someone, so as not to make enemies or ill-wishers. As the English writer Oscar Wilde said, ‘Criticism requires far more culture than creativity’.

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