How to properly deliver criticism


A 7th grader from Meyzeek Middle School speaking to the crowd. Photo by Jade Broderick.

Thomas Simmons

Providing criticism is something that often needs to be done in order to improve things and help people work for the better, but it can come off as an awkward and difficult thing to do well. People may take offense at you merely telling them about the negative aspects of something that you are making, and the relationship between individuals can be damaged. Although this can happen, it can and should be prevented, as criticism is essential to development.

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines criticism as “an opinion given about something or someone”, though many do not enjoy receiving criticism even if it is verified or if they actually desire to be criticized. There are ways to make others want criticism and to properly deliver criticism:

Criticize and praise

Providing criticism can be an excellent time to speak to the other individual regarding things they did well, and can manage to do even better. Talk to the other person about why you think what they did was good was so good, and make him or her feel good about part of what they did.

The purpose of criticism is not simply to go after somebody and only give feedback on what was wrong and really required fixing. Strong words can both hurt and help the other individual, so be careful with what you are saying, making sure that not only are you benefitting them with what he or she is constructing, he or she will know exactly what to do later.

Do not allow your emotions to control you and the criticism

Having a built-in bias or relationship towards someone can make it more difficult to provide feedback unto someone. This applies to both positive and negative relationships. Even in my own perspective through taking numerous English classes throughout my high school career, I am tempted to work among my friends when we are required to give criticism on different essays and papers.

We will “take it easier” on each other because of our casual relationships, and end up missing out on making our writing much better than what it could be. On the contrary, having a pre-established hateful relationship with someone can only be detrimental to any useful criticism if this relationship allows for tension.

Speak from your own perspective

Use “I” when saying what you think could be changed or improved, and know what you are saying. In other words, if you are skeptical about the criticism you are giving and are not sure if this is what you truly want the other person to do, chances are it may not be the right thing. Confidently educate the other person about the decisions and choices he or she ought to make, and leave him or her satisfied with the amount of strong new ideas there are to use.

End the interaction knowing that you made something better

Improvement is the main goal both individuals must have when giving constructive criticism, and it is extremely necessary that both keep this in mind. If the pair can get this done, both will come out happier than when they began and can move on to better places in the end.