How to Criticize Others Well

As a leader, you will have to criticize people from time to time. It’s rarely fun, but there is a world of difference between a critical person and someone who has to speak or look at a situation in a critical manner. If you are not willing to be critical, you are not ready to lead. But speaking critically is never easy, no matter how easy Simon Cowell makes it look.

If you want your team to grow, if you want to reproduce other leaders, you cannot do it without some hard-hitting honest feedback. There’s a delicate balance that always has to be maintained: You need to speak truthfully to help your followers grow, but you have to do it in such a way that it doesn’t crush them. So how do you do this?

How do you criticize others well?

1. You have to start from a place of relationship. The deeper your relationship is with someone, the broader based your critique of them can be. The more time you have invested relationally, the more authority and opportunity you have to speak critically.

2. Criticism always has to be two things: founded in truth and spoken in love. If your goal isn’t to build the team or grow the person you are talking to, then keep your mouth shut.

3. Make your criticism specific. Nothing hurts worse and helps less then a general, non-specific critique.

4. How do people change when critiqued? I love how Henry Cloud describes how people grow: with truth and grace in the context of relationship over the course of time.

5. Start with yourself. Allow others to critique you. Demonstrate your willingness to allow others to speak the truth in love to you.

If you want to lead well, you need to critique well.  

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Sam Luce has been the children’s pastor at Redeemer Church in Utica, New York for the past 14 years. Currently he serves as the Utica campus pastor and the Global family pastor. A prolific blogger and popular children's conference speaker, Sam has worked in children's ministry for over 23 years and is also a contributing editor to K! magazine.