How to Give Critiques the Right Way

Question from @ygquiayhe

So are there any ways that you criticize people in a tactful way? If so what are some of them? :)

Before giving someone a critique, whether it's about work or personal development, there are 4 important questions you should ask yourself before dropping the bomb. Here are 4 tips to help make sure that your feedback comes off as you intended and will be used by the receiver.

1. What’s your intention?

It’s ok to give critiques if:

  • You’re helping someone improve themselves or their quality of work
  • You want to address the root cause of a problem or misunderstanding between you

Avoid it if:

  • You’re showing your superiority/their inferiority
  • You’re trying to prove you’re right
  • You’re coming from a place of anger or hurt (there are better ways to express yourself like talking through your issues instead of criticizing the other person)
  • You’re criticizing unimportant individual differences or personal choice (e.g. someone’s choice of fashion)


2. Do they want it?

If someone isn’t willing to hear you out, you’re wasting your time. They won’t follow your advice and may feel hurt or resentful towards you.

You should have a rapport before giving a critique. If not, it’s usually fine if you have their respect, or if they explicitly ask for a critique.

If you must critique to someone who is generally sensitive or defensive, make sure they’re in a good emotional state first. Let them know you can help comment on the fiction they’re writing, for example, and set up a time you’re both comfortable with.


3. Is it a good time and place?

  • It’s better to give critiques in a private environment (i.e. not in front of their friends or coworkers)
  • Make sure they’re not busy with something else or have other concerns clouding their minds


4. Is your critique constructive?

Here are the components of a constructive criticism:

  • What they’re already doing well
  • What’s not working well and why
  • How to improve it

The how is the key. It distinguishes a helpful critique someone can actually use from a useless attack that only points out flaws.

As I wrote in a previous post (3 Tips on How to Take Criticisms Well):

There’s a difference between someone saying “wow, your drawing is bad” (negative comment), “the anatomy is kinda off, fix it” (unhelpful criticism), and “hey, the balance of that character you drew is a bit off. That right leg looks like it can’t fully support the weight of the body with this pose. Try increasing the size of the thigh and shifting it to the right a bit” (constructive criticism).

–Taime Koe

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