My Life

“Critique” — Where do we draw the line?

“If you have a problem with me, then talk to me about it, not others.”  We’ve all said it. We’ve also all talked about someone behind their backs. It’s human nature. Humans LOVE gossip.

While we love to talk about other people, we don’t like it so much when we hear someone else has been talking about us. In response, we’ll say we’d rather the person come to us with their issue.

But would we REALLY rather they come to us?

Let’s face it. The truth freaking hurts, no matter what. Humans are sensitive. We don’t like to hear our flaws pointed out, and we’re prone to becoming defensive when they are pointed out to our face.

And then there’s the saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

“But you told me to come to you when I had a problem with you.”

This post is becoming contradictory, isn’t it? So where DO we draw the line? What do we call ‘bullying’ and what do we call ‘constructive criticism’? When is it okay to point out another person’s flaw, and when isn’t it okay?

Criticizing someone is a big deal. Sometimes, it can make or break a relationship you have with someone. You should ask yourself two questions before you decide to point out someone’s flaw:

1) Are they AWARE of the flaw? If Lucy knows she’s fat (she probably does), it’s not going to do anyone any good by you pointing out she looks like an elephant. Keep those thoughts to yourself. However, if Lucy is writing a story she’s asked you to review for her, and you notice she wrote, “Let’s eat Grandma” instead of, “Let’s eat,  Grandma,” odds are she doesn’t realize she made the error. Correct it for her. If you notice her consistently making the same error, it might be time to bring it to her attention so she’s aware she’s making the error. Sometimes we aren’t even aware we’re making a mistake and we can greatly benefit from someone bringing it to our attention!

2) Is it something they can EASILY change?  It’s not easy for Lucy to drop from a size 18 to a size 8 overnight, so it’s silly to tell her she needs to lose weight. However, she can easily add a comma to a sentence.

We all can benefit from constructive criticism every now and then, but before you give criticism, think about how you would feel if someone criticized you for that reason. Approach criticism with caution. Also, remember not everyone is open to criticism, whether it’s constructive or not, and in those cases it’s better to just let the person be. If you continue nagging someone who doesn’t want to be criticized, you’re no longer constructively criticizing. You’re bullying. You might think you’re helping, but instead you’re lowering their confidence and making them less receptive to criticism in general.

It’s never a bad idea to ask before giving constructive feedback. Criticizing unsolicited can often be taken the wrong way, even if the intent is not malicious.

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