How do we give constructive criticism? It’s something all of us see and want to share, but how do we do it in a way that actually helps?
Constructive: Serving a useful purpose; tending to build up.
Criticism: The act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.
You’ve heard the term. As a leader, I hear it all the time.
So, what does “constructive criticism” mean?
I’m thinking we often misuse the phrase.
And it’s not just with leaders. It’s in every phase of life. I think it’s a societal issue. It’s even on social media. We think we are offering “constructive criticism” when we update our Facebook status or Tweet about our service with an airline or a restaurant or a school system—for example. Or anywhere else we feel a need to criticize for some reason. We may not label it that way, but I’m convinced it’s what we think we are doing.
In reality, I’ve learned that phrase is sometimes just a nice way to say, “I have a personal complaint about a personal issue, but it will make me sound less self-serving and more justified if I label it (maybe just in my mind) as constructive criticism.”
I have been thinking about the term lately—even as I might use it personally.
First, let me be clear, I’m not down on constructive criticism. I think it’s good. And often needed.
Using the definition (serving a useful purpose; tending to build up) this serves a place within any organization—even the church. It can, by definition, help us all.
How can we make sure the criticism we offer is actually constructive?
And how do we know when it is “constructive criticism” and how do we offer it to others?
7 Indicators of Constructive Criticism:
It Builds up the Body or Organization for Everyone
It’s helpful for the good of the entire vision. Everyone can benefit from constructive criticism.
It Is Not Self-Serving
This is a huge one. Constructive criticism doesn’t seek a merely personal gain. Scripture makes humility an ideal, encourages unity among believers and commands us to consider others better than ourselves—even to pray for our enemies.
It Offers Suggestions for Improvement
I’m not saying it does every time. Sometimes we just know something is wrong, but this would certainly be an indicator the criticism is actually constructive (again, simply by definition).
It Creates Useful Dialogue
And, here again, this may not happen every time, but if conversation can lead to the benefit of everyone, then it could be an indicator of being constructive – it helps build – construct.
It Affirms Others or the Vision
As I understand the terms, constructive criticism would never tear down the overarching goals and objectives of the body or organization. This would seem to contradict the definition. Criticism might, but not constructive criticism.