Constructive Criticism and Praise


Striking the balance between constructive criticism and praise can be difficult to achieve, but both are necessary if you want to help people improve. Whether you’re trying to help a child struggling with homework, improve the quality of a colleague’s work, or help a friend get better at art or sports, knowing how to properly critique a situation is essential. In this blog, we will look at several tips for giving criticism & praise effectively.

Discuss The Situation

No matter how carefully you choose your words or how delicate you may think you’re being, people can be very sensitive to any sort of criticism. Causing offense would be extremely counterproductive, which is why you should discuss the situation as a whole rather than focus on the role they played in it.

For example, telling a retail worker that they were rude to a customer or didn’t push hard enough for a sale would likely hurt them, and could make them less confident the next time around. Instead, you should advise them of how to deal with that sort of customer, or give them a few tips on how to turn things around when a customer says no. Discussing the situation puts a bit of distance between the criticism and the person receiving it, and will make them feel more like you are giving them helpful, insider knowledge, rather than criticising their performance.

Give Actionable Criticism

The very purpose of criticism is to help someone improve, so it is crucial to only criticise those things that can be changed. For example, you may not like the fact that a colleague gets sweaty and red-faced when giving a presentation, but they can’t help that, and bringing it up will only knock their confidence. However, if you feel that the content of their presentation needs to improve, that is something they can work at, and something you can offer help with.

The Sandwich Method

The sandwich method is a very popular way of cushioning the blow from any sort of criticism. This technique involves sandwiching the criticism between two positive statements. It might sound basic or even juvenile, but it is a very effective method as it sets a very different tone to giving criticism alone.

The best way to use the sandwich method is to start off by giving praise, and following that up with ‘but here’s how you could improve’. Then, when you have given the criticism, reiterate the praise and discuss how the situation will have improved once your advice has been taken on board.

Offering praise & criticism can sometimes feel like walking a tightrope, but following the tips above should help you deliver it in a more effective and less offensive way. It won’t always be well received, but as long as you haven’t crossed any lines or been too harsh, you can rest easy in the knowledge that you were being fair.

David Clarke