Constructive criticism is an intrinsic part of the process of assertive communication . When we are able to clearly express our points of view, being empathic with others, we can make a good constructive criticism. However, this is a somewhat delicate process.

In this article we will see what are the steps to follow to make constructive criticism about the actions, the way of being or the performance of the other person.

What is constructive criticism?

The process of making constructive criticism responds to several factors to be taken into account, but the basis of all suggestions about what can be done to improve something will always be the empathy you have for the other person.

When we are concerned about the development of another person, in any of their areas, we only want that person to be able to improve their capabilities, and for that we need to express what are the aspects in which their way of behaving could change (from our point of view).

So, to make a criticism with the best of intentions, we need to be able to put ourselves in the other’s place and feel how things are from their perspective.

It is not only necessary to think about the consequence of improving, the final product, but also it is necessary to consider the present moment in which the improvement has not yet taken place : what concerns, insecurities and expectations does the other have ? How can a direct criticism be taken ?

How to make constructive criticism?

Here are some tips and recommendations on how to make constructive criticism properly.

1. Have knowledge of the subject

To give an opinion on something we do not know is not constructive at all, on the contrary, instead of adding, we will be subtracting.

The most advisable thing to do before giving your criticism to a person is to make sure that you have a minimum of mastery of the subject of which you are going to give your opinion. Otherwise, giving your opinion in that way could be seen as an unjustified intrusion and a waste of time .

2. Make an assessment of the situation

Before giving your point of view on a person’s performance, you need to evaluate which variables are influencing the final result. In this way, in your constructive criticism you will be able to provide more accurate information on the aspects where the person should improve.

For example, the person may already know that he or she is not doing well in college, but that this is mainly due not to his or her lack of organization or study skills but to the simple fact that he or she works in the evenings and has no energy left to study.

3. Be sure to include positive aspects

When you prepare to make some constructive criticism, the ideal is that you do not focus only on the aspects of the person to be corrected, but that you also take care to highlight his virtues . This contributes greatly to reinforcing the other person’s motivation to continue progressing.

4. Consider the timing

We must be timely in our criticism. We need to take into consideration the moment when we are going to express our views to the other .

Sometimes it is necessary to wait for the right situation so as not to be disrespectful.

5. Consider the place

As with timing, we also need to check well if the place where we are is the most suitable for making the observations we would like to make to someone about their performance.

The idea is that we manage to motivate to improve, not to generate uncomfortable situations .

6. The type of language

Clear language should always be used. Let’s not leave any ideas up in the air, because this can lead to misunderstandings. We must discuss, point by point, what our observations and recommendations are.

We don’t want to generate rejection, but a bond of trust with the subject.

7. Reinforces your objectives

It is important to emphasize the goals that the other person is trying to achieve.

It is good to remind him how much he wants to do it and that it is worth the effort to achieve it, always making sure that those objectives are achievable based on the subject’s possibilities.

8. Allows opportunity for replication

Once you have finished expressing your constructive criticism, make sure you give the other person the respective right of reply . It is necessary that the communication is two-way and that the other person also has the opportunity to give his or her point of view on your suggestions.

9. Controls the tone of voice

The tone of voice we use to communicate our opinions will largely determine how the dynamics of communication will be .

We must not be hostile so that the other person does not feel accepted. The calmer we are, the better.

10. Take into account the availability of the other person

There are people who are not available to receive criticism, however constructive it may be. In the first instance we can try an approach to give our criticisms, but if the subject is not receptive to them it is best not to insist too much.

11. Consider the possibilities of the other person

Identifies whether the other person has the resources to change their situation , or whether it is something beyond their control.

In the case that the subject cannot change his real situation, avoid criticizing him, and only give him your support and encouragement as far as you can.

Bibliographic references:

  • Bertram, M. (2004). How the Mind Explains Behavior: Folk Explanations, Meaning, and Social Interaction, MIT Press.
  • Griffin, E. A. (1997). A first look at communication theory. New York: McGraw-Hill.