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How to Give Constructive Criticism in a Relationship

Research results prove that, oddly enough, praise does not necessarily lead to positive consequences and criticism to negative ones. Scientists believe that it is not easy for us to take any feedback on our decisions, both positive and negative because it touches on several important moments for us: on the one hand, our desire for self-development, and on the other, the desire to be accepted and respected by others.

And yet, as a rule, we react more sharply to criticism than to praise. Because we almost always remember negative events more strongly and in more detail (that is why even accepting constructive criticism is so hard). The reason for this may be evolution, and in the course of it we learned to respond faster and stronger to negative stimuli: in the wild, they often mean a deadly threat, so paying attention to them in time was important for survival. Now our life has changed, but we still react to unpleasant events and words in a negative way.

receiving constructive criticism

Another reason why constructive criticism provokes so many emotions and experiences are the novelty of the experience. Scientists say that we are more responsive to new and unusual stimuli. In a culture where polite approval is considered the norm, we see open and direct criticism as something unusual and new, and therefore, it makes a greater impression on us.

As you can see, even receiving constructive criticism is hard and this is always an uncomfortable experience for people. In today's article, however, we will try to explore this phenomenon a little bit more. Hopefully, the information below will help you become one step closer to the knowledge of how to deal with destructive criticism and being criticized in general.

What Is Constructive Criticism?

What is constructive and destructive criticism? Constructive criticism is a way of pointing to errors of the person and explaining the better ways of doing what a person has intended to. And all of this is done not to repeat the same mistakes in the future and in general, help a person reach a better result. There are two types of criticism: destructive and constructive. As for destructive, which is the opposite of constructive criticism, everything is clear and without words, what is more, we are going to talk about it later. But constructive criticism, it is rather a blessing, than a negative comment.

Constructive criticism is aimed at achieving the result and is dictated by the desire to help and stimulate the person to make the right decision. It is needed in many cases and usually can cause the person we love some inconveniences, but in the long run, truly help them. Because closing your eyes at the problems, pretending that everything around is better than ever, is not a way out. What does constructive criticism mean? If criticism is constructive, it is not aimed at personality and leads to an increase in productivity in the future, in this way it serves the common interests. That is why an effective manager never shies away from criticism, and constructive criticism in the workplace should always exist. Few people like to criticize others, but if they choose the right approach, criticism can bring benefits to both parties.

Criticism in psychology is a subject of great interest. Psychology explores the cognitive and emotional effects of criticism.

Psychologists are interested in:

  • constructive vs destructive criticismThe intentions that people have for criticism
  • The impact that criticism has on people
  • How people react to criticism and how to cope with it
  • Forms of criticism
  • Denial of criticism

For psychologists, criticism and its rejection is a form of ego defense. They've found out that people who are constantly inclined to evaluate others were often criticized in childhood when it is the most painful. So, any criticism, even very soft, can cause serious mental harm for small kids and leave traumas.

How to Give Constructive Criticism?

Living together with a person or staying in a relationship without criticism is impossible because it is often necessary. It is necessary both in official and in personal relationships. Without it, it is hardly possible to solve the problem and move forward. When criticizing correctly, you can maintain good friendship or partnership and at the same time, express your opinion. But for criticism to be productive rather than offensive, one needs to know a few rules. Here they are.

  • You should pay attention to the tone you express your claims with. Most people respond normally to your comments if you feel it in your tone that you are just trying to help because you love them.
  • Rules of constructive criticism suggest the possibility of an agreement, so even if there is a temptation to express irony and sarcasm, it is better to leave such a manifestation of the emotions for yourself. Constructive criticism does not tolerate manifestations of disrespect, agility, and aggression.
  • You must speak sincerity, show openness and desire to improve the situation.
  • The person you give advice to must understand what you want them to say. After all, trying not to offend someone, you can fall into another extreme - to speak half-notes and use general phrases, and the person will be only disappointed and will not understand what is going on.
  • Criticize not the person themselves, but their actions. If, for example, your loved one made a mistake, do not say, "You're a fool! How could you do that?" Constructive criticism examples consist of approximately the following words, "You are smart, prudent, but that is one aspect you can do better in the future!"
  • When criticized, a person realizes that they made a mistake, so they should not be criticized for it. Criticism should be aimed at helping get out of the situation - there are no hopeless situations.
  • If the person has got into trouble, unconstructive criticism can only make them sadder even more. So, watch the situation and estimate whether your advice is suitable.
  • To make criticism productive and effective, so that the person understands their mistakes, and you could rely on the understanding, it's important to choose the right time. Of course, when your beloved is going through hard times, if you approach them even with the best intentions to help, criticism will only make matters worse in such a situation.
  • To express a critical remark to a person, one should think not only about the convenient time but also about the place. Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that a couple starts arguing and criticizes each other in front of other people. Such a critique cannot be constructive a priori, even if the criticism is absolutely right, and that is why you should never try to put your loved one down when other people are watching. So, take care of the absence of outsiders and the privacy of your conversation. Public criticism cannot be constructive and it will offend and humiliate a person and will not bring benefits.
  • Before you start criticizing someone, you should first recall your own shortcomings or mistakes made in the past. Self-criticism will allow those we criticize not to feel affected, and it will be easier for them to recognize and correct their mistakes.
  • In order for a person to know how to handle constructive criticism, we must remind them of their positive sides and always mention their strengths. Then, the negative comments will be perceived easier.
  • Before you begin to make critical remarks, you must imagine the possible corresponding reaction of your close person. All people are different, so you need an individual approach here.

How to Take Constructive Criticism?

If we talk about destructive criticism, it is worthless. We would recommend you to avoid aggressive people who constantly criticize you in a negative way. Such people shouldn’t be listened to, because by criticizing others, they show only their own weaknesses. Here are, however, some rules on how to take the real constructive criticism so that it pushes you to the action and help you correct mistakes.

accepting constructive criticism1. Take this as a lesson. We do not notice any of our weak sides that other people can perfectly recognize. Sometimes you believe that you are doing something right, but in reality, it's not. It is in this case that criticism will be useful. You will have the opportunity to look at yourself from the side if you let others explain to you what can be improved in you, or in your work. Take this as a great opportunity to make the necessary changes in your life and listen to those people who know you best.

2. Do not take it personally. If criticism is directed specifically at you, it is important to be able to not take it close to your heart. Often criticism is expressed to help you, not to offend, but to make sure you can use your potential to the fullest. It relates only to your work and deeds, not you as a person.

3. Ask again if you are not sure. To make criticism useful, you must have a good understanding of its content. You should see it from the point of view of the person who has expressed it to you. If you do not understand what's wrong and how to fix it, criticism will be completely useless.

4. Take time to reflect. Many people do not see anything useful at the moment when they are criticized. But if they are left alone with their thoughts, they will begin to see meaning in those words. An immediate reaction to criticism may be anger, denial or disappointment. But when you have a clear mind, you might think that these words in your address were fully justified.

Constructive Criticism Vs Destructive Criticism

Constructive criticism, as we have learned, is criticism using which we say not only what is bad, but mention the positive sides of the person’s results and suggest how to do better. For example:

  • “Excellent! And this, I think, can be done so, it will be safer!”
  • “Yes, thank you, it was beautiful and effective. It seems that it will be even better if you pay attention to this and that in the future. What do you think?”
  • “It was wonderful, but this, in my opinion, can be done better. I see this, for example, so ... "
  • The formula is, "What is good, what to change or add to get the desired result."

If you do not know what to suggest and how to help the person whom you are going to criticize, then do not do it at all. The difference between constructive vs destructive criticism is that the second means the expression of disparaging or insulting judgments about one’s personality and/or a rough aggressive condemnation, reproach or ridicule of their deeds and actions. Destructive criticism reveals your own shortcomings and weaknesses, detects your mistakes and shortcomings.

The destructiveness of such criticism lies in the fact that it makes it difficult for a person to react to it in a proper way, distracts their strength to fight the negative emotions that have arisen, and reduces their self-confidence. Destructive criticism is almost always useless and usually harmful.

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