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How to Deliver Constructive Criticism

Criticism, like making a sandwich

No one likes criticism, but it’s a part of working life. When you’ve got to give criticism, it’s most productive to do it in a positive way. Think of delivering criticism like making a sandwich.

The first layer, the bread, should be a positive compliment, something the person has done well. The filling is the criticism, the meat, cheese, lettuce, and condiments of your message. And finally, the top layer of bread is an action plan with follow up ending things on a positive and productive note.

Begin with a positive compliment

Let’s pull those ingredients apart again and consider how they fit properly together. Delivering constructive criticism should begin with a positive compliment. People react positively when complimented about something done well. They’re less defensive and more open to ideas and ways to change. It allows them to take the criticism that follows as a specific instance and not a general condemnation.

Start by praising what went well before turning to the not so well. You’re critiquing, not attacking. Keep your delivery, tone of voice and body language positive. After the positive compliment comes the criticism or what needs to change.

Focus on behavior

Don’t jump straight into the criticism. First, ask for your delegate’s thoughts and opinions. Ask your delegate if there is anything they might have done differently and get their opinion on how things went. You’ll be surprised how often they’ll know what’s gone wrong and readily acknowledge it when they feel safe and not under fire.

They may even have their own ideas about how to improve. And that makes it much easier to work with them to get better results. If they don’t know or acknowledge what went wrong, you’ll have to tell them. Focus on their behavior on the process and how they went about it. This isn’t about their false as a person, it’s about an action or behavior what the person did not who the person is.