Reconstructing Criticism: Goals

I am on a vacation I would like some time to enjoy and, well, this seems timely. A repost of a series.

When formulating constructive criticism online, it’s important to pay attention to your purpose and shape your message accordingly. (Yes, it’s time to talk about “tone.”) Why? Because unlike much of the communication on the internet, which is more expressionistic in nature, constructive criticism is designed to reach and influence a specific audience. The goal is to change behavior, which precludes several other goals. Continue reading “Reconstructing Criticism: Goals”

Reconstructing Criticism: Goals
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Reconstructing Criticism: Collegiality

I am on a vacation I would like some time to enjoy and, well, this seems timely. A repost of a series.

“Because I said so” may be four of the most satisfying words in the English language. Unfortunately, they are almost exactly the wrong thing to say, or even imply, when delivering constructive criticism.

It isn’t that a person in a position of authority can’t deliver constructive criticism. They can and do frequently, since human resources management is the largest group to have embraced its utility. That doesn’t mean there aren’t problems that lie in combining the weight of authority with the criticism. Continue reading “Reconstructing Criticism: Collegiality”

Reconstructing Criticism: Collegiality

Reconstructing Criticism: Accuracy

I am on a vacation I would like some time to enjoy and, well, this seems timely. A repost of a series.

I frequently call accuracy its own virtue, and I even generally mean it. Sure, it’s possible to overreach semantic agreement or shared perspective and descend into pedantry or get all persnickety. However, short of that point, accuracy conveys inherent advantages.

This is particularly true when it comes to making criticism constructive. Continue reading “Reconstructing Criticism: Accuracy”

Reconstructing Criticism: Accuracy

Reconstructing Criticism: Behavior

I am on a vacation I would like some time to enjoy and, well, this seems timely. A repost of a series.

This post will be a bit of a departure. To date, I’ve tried to talk about constructive criticism in positive terms, to focus on what to do rather than what to avoid. That gets more difficult the more misunderstood a concept is, and keeping the focus of criticism on behavior is one of the more misunderstood pieces of constructive criticism, at least in practice. I can say that behavior is specific, overt actions taken directly by an individual (including omissions of behavior). This is still likely to result in misunderstandings, so let me tell you what behavior is not. Continue reading “Reconstructing Criticism: Behavior”

Reconstructing Criticism: Behavior

Reconstructing Criticism: Specifics

I am on a vacation I would like some time to enjoy and, well, this seems timely. A repost of a series.

A couple of weeks ago, someone criticized a post of mine, highlighting the problem of women’s sexuality being treated differently than men’s, for not being specific with regards to who was talking about whose sexuality. Now, there was a little problem in that this person was reacting to a repost with all the links (providing the information he was looking for) stripped out, but aside from that, he had a point. If the criticism leveled at me had been accurate (hold that thought; it will come up later), it would have been quite important for me to take note.

Being specific, like so many of the other elements of constructive criticism, serves multiple purposes. Continue reading “Reconstructing Criticism: Specifics”

Reconstructing Criticism: Specifics

Reconstructing Criticism: Praise

I am on a vacation I would like some time to enjoy and, well, this seems timely. A repost of a series.

Praise might seem like an incongruous topic for a discussion about criticism, but for constructive criticism, praise is hugely useful. One of the big differences between constructive and destructive criticism is the idea that the person being criticized is worth building up instead of tearing down. There isn’t a better way to reinforce that idea than to celebrate that person’s contributions. Continue reading “Reconstructing Criticism: Praise”

Reconstructing Criticism: Praise

Reconstructing Criticism: Timing

I am on a vacation I would like some time to enjoy and, well, this seems timely. A repost of a series.

You may recall from the introduction to this series that constructive criticism offers positive recommendations for the future. This has implications for the timing of offering criticism. Continue reading “Reconstructing Criticism: Timing”

Reconstructing Criticism: Timing

Reconstructing Criticism: Transparency

I am on a vacation I would like some time to enjoy and, well, this seems timely. A repost of a series.

One of the hallmarks of constructive criticism is that it is presented in such a way that the recipient understands the criticism is about their behavior, that it isn’t personal. However, any group of people brought together by mutual concerns are going to develop personal history. Some things will be personal. Continue reading “Reconstructing Criticism: Transparency”

Reconstructing Criticism: Transparency

Reconstructing Criticism: Work

This is the last post, at least for now, on the subject of constructive criticism. Feel free to suggest other subtopics that I haven’t covered. This post doesn’t contain any new information about making criticism effective, just some general thoughts about offering criticism.

Many of the the topics in this series are interrelated, and I’ve attempted to include those relationships as links. Beyond that, however, there is one thing that every part of creating constructive criticism has in common. It’s a lot of work. It might even be too much work. After all, you’ve got other things to do. Honestly? That’s okay.

One of the goals of this series is to give you tools for making any criticism you might offer more effective. I think I’ve done that, and I think I’ve explained how the various tools work to improve efficacy. But I also wanted to differentiate between criticism that is called constructive and criticism that actually is constructive. There’s a fair amount of the former around on the internet that has as its sole claim to being constructive “Well, I think it will be better for you if you do it my way.” By now you should know that constructive criticism requires more than that.

That isn’t to say that there’s something wrong with criticism that doesn’t work to be constructive. There’s a place for that too, in the grand scheme of internet chatter. However, we shouldn’t call it constructive when it’s not. Doing so claims an effort that hasn’t been made (sometimes because it can’t be). It can also be used as a lever to demand explanations for why criticism hasn’t worked, when the simple answer is that it wasn’t really built to work.

Calling all “friendly” criticism constructive also confuses people about what constructive criticism actually is; namely, a process that can produce excellent results when we’re willing to put in the work. I hope this series helps to make your work more productive.

Reconstructing Criticism: Work