THE FINE ART OF HEALTHY CRITICISM
Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.
The dictionary meaning of criticism is “the expression of disapproval of someone or something on the basis of perceived faults or mistakes”. It clearly means that criticism is subjective. Healthy criticism is one of the most underrated skills at workplace. Let’s accept the fact that most people don’t like to be criticized and hence criticizing other people is a tough job. In fact, successful managers are always good at healthy criticism. They convince people to change in an amicable manner. ‘What you say’ and ‘how you say it’ becomes important and critical when it relates to criticism. Colleagues who engage in healthy criticism are regarded as good mentors and guides. Giving and receiving feedback at the workplace is essential for continuous improvement and progress of the team. This is an integral part of workplace dynamics. However, the objective of criticism should always be improvement or development. Any criticism to be deemed healthy needs to fulfill a few conditions-
1. It should be aimed at a process/ event and not a person. Using criticism to target someone personally just goes on to speak volumes about the intention and attitude of the criticizer.
2. ‘Praise in public and criticize in private’. Criticism is always more acceptable when it’s accompanied by reasoning, logic and justification. Hence, it’s always better to have a one-on –one conversation when you can do it.
3. Criticism should not be used as a tool to belittle other people. It should be used as a tool for improvement.
4. ‘Practice before you preach’: Criticize others when you are confident that you have yourself practiced it. Never advocate what you don’t follow. It’s a matter of credibility and substance.
5. Contextualize and customize criticism: Just like gifts, criticism needs to be customized and contextualized to ensure better acceptance.
Choose the words you use to criticize very carefully. The words you use may affect someone psychologically. There is a certain intensity that every word carries with itself. They also set the “tone” of the conversation. Many a time, people are very casual with regard to the words they use to criticize others. Criticism should also be timed adequately in order to ensure that it is fruitful. People expect credibility from the person who criticizes. When you criticize others you need to have appropriate KSA’s (Knowledge, Skills and Attitude) relating to the matter of criticism. This lends the ‘credibility’ factor and makes criticism from you more acceptable. For example, you cannot criticize someone for poor body language when you do not display good body language. These are minute details which are neglected in several cases. It’s also important to understand that criticism in itself does not serve any purpose completely. It needs to be supplemented with instances, guidance and improvement plans. This completes the loop of the criticism process and makes criticism successful. Therefore, the next time you are about to criticize someone, think twice!