Posts Tagged ‘constructive criticism’

Is Straight Talk Really Beneficial?

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Criticism is futile  because it puts a person on the defensive and usually  makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person's precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.

- Dale Carnegie

Are you a big proponent of talking "straight"? Is criticism alright if it's "constructive"? I have always been a big proponent of both. I have colleagues from Asia where the concept of saving face is very important. I have witnessed people literally dancing around an issue to save someone a supposed embarrassment and considered how foolish it all was. I suppose in some sort of sense of being privy to superior methods, I have extolled the virtues of saying what you mean, and not talking things personally.

About a week ago, I read Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. The very first principle in chapter one: don't criticize. It was after reading this chapter that I started to question this fundamental assumption I had regarding the benefits of saying exactly what you mean, especially when what you mean includes a criticism. While we could suggest that what we want to say should not be taken personally, how can we know it won't? We could be "constructive" and criticize a person's particular action, satisfied that we did not criticize the person directly. It's a nice distinction, but how can we be sure the person you are supposedly helping is making the same one? So despite our best intentions, there is always the risk that criticism will in fact be taken personally. Now consider this: what if one's self esteem or pride is all they have? When you take away, perhaps unknowingly, the last thing a person feels they have, how do you think they will behave?

One has to wonder, is any criticism really useful? We can dress it up in all the right management speak, but isn't criticism, however constructive, just another form of Monday morning quarterbacking? If we are not getting the desired result from someone, shouldn't we be focusing on the desired outcome and trying to understand the person we want to deliver that outcome, rather than commenting on what they did in the past?

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