Nobody likes to be criticized, let’s face it. But based on early training, we have a tendency to come from a negative point of view when it comes to our interactions over behavior. And this is a somewhat natural reaction, because we now know that our negative vocabulary is multiple times the size of our positive vocabulary. So, how do we break this cycle?
Negative criticism is almost always a mistake. Do you know anyone who likes it? It brings you down, makes you feel angry and resentful, and it hardly ever makes you want to change, does it? When presented with this type of criticism, we immediately jump to a defensive posture, protecting our knowledge, intellect, character and more, from the perceived assault. When this happens, our perceptions shut down and we “see” nothing but the attack.
Constructive feedback is a horse of a different color. There’s no sting in it, because it is not about your deficient character and it doesn’t come at you like an attack. It is designed to give you valuable information and it assumes you care about making a change – to be better tomorrow than you are today.
So, what is the difference between constructive feedback and criticism? Well, it’s the difference between saying, “You never help around the house because you’re a slob and you just don’t care,” and saying, “When you neglect to do your part of the weekly clean-up around the house, I feel overworked and taken for granted.”
Can you see the difference? The first statement attacks character and sounds like it’s coming from a victim. The second states the facts and shares information about feelings without making the other person a villain. All that it takes to become an expert in constructive feedback is practice and a willingness to give up judgment and blame.
It also helps to remember what your goal is. If you want more conflict, go ahead and blame. It is a perfect way to sustain chaos and cloud the real reason for the displeasure. However, if you want positive action, learn to give constructive feedback instead.