Know How To Give Proper Criticism

Diving into the realm of public writing leaves you open to criticism and feedback, both good and bad.  This is not a bad thing. I welcome all opinions and ideas.  After all, the motivation behind According to Courtney are my own thoughts and opinions to provoke the thoughts of others.  Participating in the WordPress Blogging University courses has been a great way to get feedback and exchange ideas with fellow bloggers.

Taking any sort of criticism for most people is difficult. Through Blogging University, most of the feedback I have received has been positive. Not a lot of negative criticism has been sent my way and most feedback has been constructive in nature.  The essence of the Blogging University message boards is to connect and create within a community of fellow bloggers. Encouragement and feedback is key to growing your blog and developing your skills.

Recently, I received a piece of feedback that took me aback at first. Honestly, I was insulted. (Admittedly, I’m not always the best at taking negative feedback. Hey, we all have things to work on!) I realized after some reflection that the feedback was likely not meant to be harsh. The person delivering the information just has not learned how to give proper feedback. small__10173857405

The criticism I received was that my posts were too long and the reader did not like my title. The reader did however enjoy my content.  Seems fairly innocuous, as I am sure it was meant to be. Where the reader went wrong was by just giving a statement, i.e. “I don’t like your title”, rather than stating the feedback and providing an idea or a thought on how to improve. Not enough people realize that to give proper feedback or criticism you have to also provide an alternative, an idea or a solution.  So, rather than simply stating “I don’t like your title”, my reader could have said “As a reader, your title does not appeal to me. Have you considered using something that did not involve your name?” See where I am going?

By approaching me the way he/she did, the reader automatically put me on the defense.  “Hey! That’s MY title! It’s personal to me! And, you just attacked it!” But, if the reader had given thought provoking, true feedback I may have considered his/her comments. Instead, I dismissed them and allowed myself to be emotional about the observation.

In my “day job” world as a manager, I hear complaints, issues, feedback and just plain old whining from my employees and business partners on a daily basis. I also have to deliver messages that may not be positive in nature. I have had some coaching and  also learned on my own along the way how to make those messages not only easier to deliver, but easier to receive. Here are my suggestions for giving constructive feedback, even when that criticism is delivering a seemingly negative message:

1. Use the “sandwich” method. Negative criticism is never easy to receive, or give for that matter. But, if you put the message in a positive “sandwich”, it eases the blow.  Start with a positive and end with a positive.

2. Provide a solution, alternative or other suggestion. My issue with my reader’s feedback was that he/she just provided blanket statements with no follow up or suggestion. I constantly ask my employees bringing complaints to not just offer up the complaint, but to make a suggestion or create a solution. This gets them thinking and involved in solving problems, not just identifying them.

3. Make the message a dialogue. Once a solution or suggestion is offered, then a dialogue can begin, making the conversation beneficial. I did not even respond to my reader’s comments. How do I respond? There is no opportunity for a dialogue. I, therefore, gained no benefit from these comments and the reader gained nothing by leaving them.

Not providing feedback and criticism in a synergetic manner can not only put off the person your delivering the message to and cause an emotional reaction, but when done continuously over time can be construed as  bullying (yes, adults bully each other too!). Keep these tips in mind and you can avoid damage to an otherwise good relationship; business or personal.

2 thoughts on “Know How To Give Proper Criticism

  1. I have been thinking of doing the Blogging University, good to hear some about your experience participating. The person did perk your mind, and give you a subject manner to write about. All was not worthless as it seems at times, even a comment made with no solution has some value, even if you did all the work to get said value out of it.

    1. Blogging 101 was great, especially if you are a bit new to blogging or haven’t generated a lot of traffic yet. I signed up for 201 and ended up out of town on business for the duration. So, I did not get a lot of time to participate. I may try it again next time around. Maybe I will see you there!

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