Give Praise Instead of Criticism
Is your first reaction to something to criticize? Are you ever ready to pull down other people's tower of cards, to lop the tall poppies? Does criticizing sum up your personality? If you answered yes to these questions, or even to one of them, it's possible that you're heavily invested in making yourself feel better at the expense of others. And that this comes with a big price – loss of friendships, loss of trust from others you interact with, and a wariness from people in your perspective and judgement.
While a little feedback here and there is helpful when you're helping people to learn the ropes in something you are genuinely expert or experienced in, allowing a critique-everything personality to dominate your life can lead to a less fulfilling, less enjoyable, and even a lonelier life. Instead of ostracizing yourself in this manner, consider some ways of gently moving your more critical self into a less critical zone.
- Realize it for the habit it is. Criticizing people is a shortcut way of saying "I want my perspective of the world to dominate and I really don't want to know or learn about how you see things." It's often a refuge for hiding hurts, naivety, and a lack of knowledge (and an unwillingness to acknowledge this). A constant need to criticize can also arise from having a sense of superiority over others, whether or not one has the expertise to justify such an attitude. Or, there is argumentative Annie, who sees the need to be negative and to stoke the embers of the "never good enough" fire because seeing people dissatisfied and confused is a comfort zone for her. The point is that when we are happy, we seldom criticize anybody, rather we appreciate, uplift others, it feels far better. Ultimately though, whatever the reason behind a constant tendency to criticize is one simple thing – habit. It's about forming a way of thinking that has become so entrenched that it seems appropriate, even when it's not, and is a fall-back that soon grows to fit many situations beyond the one in which the critical personality initially arose.
- For example, someone expert at a particular work skill may have begun criticizing lower level staff's work practices out of the knowledge born of experience; however, the temptation to extend this critical self across to other situations, such as family life, friendships, or socializing interactions becomes overwhelming and it soon starts to infiltrate everything. At that point, being a constant criticizer is a curse of a habit and it requires changing.
- Realize that time is ever changing and that everything moves on. The constant criticizer risks stepping into the unknown when he or she refuses to keep up with the times but bases critical comments on what he or she knew in the past. While what you used to do in the past may have been the one and only method for getting it right then, at least get your facts straight about the present. In many cases, you may just find that the world has moved on and that you're clinging to an old view that no longer persists but your Take Writing Criticism Gracefully is sourced from that old view. This will merely set you up to look like a fool.
- Learn to appreciate yourself and your life. Deliberately start appreciating small and big things in your life, things you are grateful for. Know that we treat others the way we treat ourselves. Make peace with yourself, be kind to yourself, and gradually you will feel the shift happening, you will stop enjoying criticizing others, instead you'd start enjoying seeing good things in them, positive traits you'd have otherwise missed, plus when we uplift others, we do the same for ourselves. Soon you'd be a positive influence in their life. We teach best through example, by being the inspiration we wish others would receive in their life.
- Learn the difference between constructive feedback/criticism and negative or non-constructive criticism. Negative criticism consists of telling another person that something they've done, or even who they are, isn't good enough by some standard and is put across in such a manner as to belittle, silence, distress, or distance someone – or even to put them into disrepute with others. If this criticism is constant and persistent, then it can be incredibly debilitating for the recipient. Constructive feedback or criticism, on the other hand, is criticism aimed at letting another person know that something they've done could be improved upon with issue- or fact-specific examples (not generalizing) and it can also be about informing that person about what they've done well. And praise is a deliberate action to find and celebrate the favorable, the good, and the desirable in what someone has done; it is also possible to cultivate this attitude as a habit, the habit of looking for what is good in others, looking for their strengths, and encouraging them to empower themselves.
- Sometimes people mistake never-ending negative criticism for being helpful in a "tough love" kind of way. Certainly, sometimes people do need to hear a very raw truth in order to be redirected from a very unhealthy development path, but harping on about something or doing it without compassion, support, and kindness behind the intent will damage your relationship with the recipient. Focusing on kindness when delivering very tough criticism will help you to avoid coming across as superior and irreproachable.
- Be careful to avoid "boosterism" when creating a praise habit. This is akin to "forced praise" in which poor performance or behavior is given praise in the hope that mediocrity will be ironed out by a huge boost in self-esteem. If only it were that easy but such praise does a disservice to the recipient because they aren't motivated to improve their performance or to gain Self Heal over things they find challenging. Praising others is not about replacing accurate, reliable, and truthful feedback with unrealistic and misleading pats on the back for poor performance, attitude, or behavior. The key element to avoid "boosterism" is to link your praise to good effort and/or good results that are evident and quantifiable.
- This is not to say that is wrong to tell someone the generalities of what you see as good in them. For example, to tell a person that "I love how thoughtful, kind, and caring you are. I have seen you help people on so many occasions that I feel as if you're always there when things go wrong for other people" is pointing out generally that you do appreciate these aspects of their personality. On the other hand, to say to someone that "I think you're a very clever problem solver when you put your mind to it and we'll ignore the previous six months of math test fails" is pretty unrealistic and unhelpful!
- Question why you don't like something that another person has said or done. Sometimes the speed with which you respond says much more about yourself than about the other person; the more visceral your reaction, perhaps the more you're reacting to something within, such as jealousy, anger, a sense of despair, or annoyance that you weren't the first to think of it or do it, or that you haven't got the same talent, or that you tried and failed and have a distaste for anyone else who does succeed. Ask yourself:
- Do I want to criticize this because I'm not a fan of what I want to criticize?
- Do I want to criticize this because I dislike this person?
- Do I want to criticize this because I can't see anyone else doing so?
- Do I want to criticize because if I don't, then there won't be a decent discussion to double and triple check that this is the best way?
- In each case, your answers will help you to locate the reason behind your criticism. Think of other questions you might ask yourself whenever you feel the urge to criticize.
- Do a switch. You've clarified to yourself why you don't like something or someone and why you think criticism is justified. Now think of what you do like about the situation, the outcome, or the person. If you need a reason to dislike something, you must have a reason to like something. Maybe the person didn't do so badly after all and a deep gnawing feeling within is telling you this reality but you're more comfortable not acknowledging this truth. Think about this from the start of the upwelling of a desire to criticize, so you aren't caught off guard and end up feeling as if you have to make up lies about what you like about something. You can still find something to praise amid your Cope With Feeling Stuck.
- If it's a person, look for at least one good thing that you do like/trust/admire (however begrudgingly) in that person. And focus on that.
- Don't hate on people. This takes away a whole reason for you to dislike them or their ideas! If you think, "I'm going to criticize because I hate this person!", stop yourself immediately. Say to yourself: "No, that's not a good enough reason" and think of a better one. Do this every time and soon it will become your new habit. The greatest realization as you change criticism to praise is that encouraging another person is a way of building trust and respect, and it displays belief in them, even if they're not yet at their point of performing their very best. By encouraging them, you demonstrate that you care for their success and well-being rather than trying to drag them down and alienate them.
- Remember that being Be a Pleasant Person in temperament will open more doors than being a grouch. Simple logic makes it clear that people respond more positively to a pleasant approach to them than a negative, criticizing one. The secret behind this is to be concerned about respecting others, avoid negativity, and motivate others to feel more positive about themselves.
- Before criticizing, think about what you would like to hear. Would you like to hear that someone hated you and that's why they criticized your efforts? Pretend it was you, and if you were that person, think about what you would want to hear.
- Find pathways to praise. Initially, focus on your integrity of thought and action and move from this point. If you're not able to work out what to say, spend some time reading words related to praise, lists of praise phrases, and other people's suggestions about giving praise. The more you read about this approach to thinking, the more it will infiltrate your own thinking and you'll begin to see a change of perspective within yourself, especially when you put it into practice and see people's Create Positive and Peaceful Change in the Classroom. Think of praise as encouragement, motivation, and facilitation, and you'll soon start to feel more comfortable with it.
Some great praise messages include:
- "You did a good job of..."
- "You have improved in..."
- "You're telling me you can't do it. But I think you can."
- "I'm sure you'll be able to handle it."
- "Keep trying!"
- "Don't give up. Sure it looks like a mess but you've always managed to clear the hurdles before and I know you can now too."
- "I think your style/approach is fascinating. It's not one I'm used to but I'm open to learning more."
- Don't stumble over giving constructive feedback or criticism. As discussed earlier, all praise and no feedback can result in mediocrity. If you do have a better grasp of a situation, and have genuine suggestions for helpful improvements that will motivate the other person to achieve their best self, don't hold back. Just be sure to couch your feedback in terms that help, not harm.
- Give hints. If you're having trouble with praise, think of what you could tell them to help them. Telling them to work on it a little isn't mean-spirited, and they shouldn't take it personally as long as you aren't pointing it out in a rude or uncaring way. For example, if you were reviewing a person's singing ability, you could say, "A little flat, but not too bad." or "You flubbed the lyrics a little, but not too badly."
- Think about how you phrase negative messages. Being inclusive can help a great deal, such as "How do you think we should deal with...?", or "What is your opinion?", or "Tell me what you feel about it."
- One way of dealing with something pretty negative that has happened is to say: "I like/believe in you. I just don't like/believe in what you did/said/produced. You are so much better than that."
- Be open to being given Get Feedback on Twitter in turn. If you can dish it out, you can certainly accept a portion back to help you to learn and grow too.
- Be patient! Not everybody may be as talented as you are, so make sure you don't expect someone to be perfect because it's not going to happen. Besides, thinking this way is blinkered – you may be brilliant at drawing or writing but terrible at public speaking or kayaking. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses; yet, it is truly strong to "give things a go" before dismissing them outright as something you can't do but the last thing you want is someone criticizing you for trying!
- If you can't think of something pleasant on the spot, tell a person that you'll "get back to them when you've had a think". Only do this when it's something that it would make sense to take some thinking space over, such as producing something creative like a novel or video.
- Praise people for small things first, and then work up to the big things. This gives you space to grow your own sense of comfort with other people's achievements and to learn that having good, clever people around you is a bonus, not a threat.
- Keep a notebook of your building praise vocabulary. There is nothing wrong with giving yourself prompts and remembering the praise motivators that have worked well for you.
- Only give criticism if necessary If you absolutely have to, and if you can't follow any of these steps to find some good, at least tell them nicely! Don't yell or shout, but say calmly, "You didn't do well, but there's always room for improvement. Would you like me to help you?" instead of, "That was terrible! You didn't even try! I bet a two year old could do better than you just did!"
- People won't want to be around you if you keep criticizing. Face up to it sooner rather than later because bitterness as you age tends to become stronger until it's almost immovable.
- Think it over. Make sure you aren't just praising people with lies. Only tell them the truth about what was good! Wouldn't you be upset if they told you how good something was, but it was really a lie? Probably. And people will know you're lying if you're not genuine; the body messages will definitely give you away.
Things You'll Need
- Notebook for praise prompts
- Give Criticism
- Deal With People Who Criticize Something You Made
- Criticize Constructively
- Keep Your Cool when You Are Criticized
- Criticize Tactfully
- Stop Criticizing Others
Sources and Citations
- Dr Sven Hansen, Engage your emotions, p. 15, (2006), ISBN 978-1-86953-628-2