When you criticize someone, think about how your behaviour and words reflect on yourself. What does your criticism say about you? Are you really so good or so knowledgeable that you yourself are beyond criticism? Very often, what we criticize in others is what we do not like about ourselves.
The theory on criticism says that you should only criticize if you can’t be criticized yourself for the same thing. That makes it rather hard to criticize anybody, because no one is perfect. Think about this next time you have a go at somebody over their driving.
Criticism comes from a feeling of superiority, strong opinions, or self-righteousness and is expressed in statements such as “you are wrong….”, “surely you can’t mean that….”, “what are you doing this for, don’t you know that…” and so on. I’m sure you can think of a few more not to mention the name calling that often goes hand in hand with criticism.
You can almost feel the negativity from those few examples just by reading them. When you are at the receiving end, there is no doubt. They make you feel bad and defensive. Criticism is a great way of starting an unnecessary argument and if you want to avoid that, try a different approach. This will still allow you to express your opinion.
Instead of “you are wrong” say “I disagree” and then explain why. Now you have a discussion rather than an argument. Instead of “surely you can’t mean that” say something like “how did you come to that conclusion?” (using the right tone of voice – the one that does not imply ridicule!) Instead of “you are doing this wrong” something like “have you tried doing it this way?” or “can I show you another way of doing it?” are more friendly and helpful.
The fact that you know more, have more experience, greater insight etc. does not make you better and it does not make other people worse – just different.
Appreciate the differences instead of the shortcomings and you'll see people – and yourself – in a better light.
Of course, things are always easier if you don’t have to do them yourself. I think we are all a little bit guilty of being better cooks than those we watch on TV in a cooking competition or better football players than those professionals playing a dreadful game losing to a bottom of the league team. Whilst they do not hear our criticism it is still worthwhile taking a step back and ask – “could I really do better?”
Finding faults in others is easy, letting it go without comment may need a bit of work. If criticizing is something you would like to do less of and find difficult to achieve on your own, you can always contact me and discuss, without obligation, how we might work together on achieving the changes you want to make.