Criticism can be a great thing. It keeps us from becoming myopic, helps us grow personally and often leads to recognizing and solving real problems. However, there is a significant difference between valuable ‘constructive criticism’ and a critical person who seems to only offer criticism that is destructive.
Here are three questions to discern between the two:
1. Are they willing to personally help solve the problem?
Critical people are all about the ‘hit and run.’ They are quick to point out what’s wrong, but there is a lack of willingness to be a part of the solution. If the problem is financial, are they willing to provide money? If the solution to problem requires time, will they rearrange their calendar? It’s one thing to say, “This is what’s wrong- you need to make it better.” it’s another to say, “This is what’s wrong and I will do whatever I can to help you make it better.”
2. How do they respond if you or others disagree?
No one is always 100% correct in their criticism. There will probably be parts where the person offering criticism is spot-on and other parts where they miss the mark. The question is whether or not they are willing to engage in a healthy dialogue about what they see. If there is no willingness to budge or to genuinely listen to another perspective(s), their criticism is less constructive and is more destructive.
3. What is the ‘spirit’ of their criticism?
When someone is offering criticism, it is often difficult to know their intent. One thing you can do is trying to listen ‘between the words.” What is the nature of the criticism? What is the heart in which it is being expressed? For criticism to be truly be constructive, it should be given with the goal of helping the recipient improve and be more successful, not to belittle or humiliate.
We all have given and received criticism. What advice would you add that may help criticism be less destructive and more constructive?