25 Nov 2012

One Surefire Way Of Becoming A Constructive Critic!

Purvesh (read and subscribe to his awesome blog) & I got into a discussion during a booze session about my previous blog article. While he agreed that people readily dish out criticism (and another blogger took a jab at me here), he didn’t agree with the heading. He rightly pointed out that the whole world is not your critic. Only people who know you criticize you; some do it for your good while others do try to go one up on you.

Purvesh suggested the next article be on how to be a constructive critic. So here it is.

Who is a critic? Wikipedia says “A critic is anyone who expresses a value judgment. Informally, criticism is a common aspect of all human expression and need not necessarily imply skilled or accurate expressions of judgment. At its simplest, and for whatever reason, a critic may have either constructive or destructive intent.” So why do YOU criticize someone?
Simon Cowell - A constructive critic? Yeah, right!

Early in his life, Abraham Lincoln criticized people ruthlessly. He’d leave letters in the marketplace lambasting someone and readers would heartily laugh. It was when a politician challenged him to a duel and it came to life and death did he decide that he wouldn’t make his negative feelings public anymore.

As I said earlier, we criticize people because we want the best for them or because we want to show them down. But the words we use almost always decide how the person takes it. Harsh words generally compromise the point we’re trying to drive, while sweet words probably ensure the person won’t heed them.

So how do you become a constructive critic?

The secret: YOU DON’T! We cannot criticize someone because we think are better than them at something or we have dollops of advice to offer. Often the advice may be way off target or totally redundant. Then we have criticism techniques – sandwich method and chutney method and blah blah. But are we qualified enough to criticize anyone? Maybe someone is not as interested as us in that aspect; they’re much better at something else. Does that mean they retort by criticizing us on what they’re good at? The war will never end. So don’t criticize anyone.

Yes, you’ll say criticism is important to help subordinates improve at work, help children learn what’s right, help friends get out of bad habits… News Flash! No one does anything unless they want to do it. Will your criticism convince them to do something that doesn’t interest them?

If you really want someone to improve, trust his/her capability to learn and improve. Be it at work, home or amongst friends, let the person do things his/her way and learn from experience. He may come up with alternate and better ways. And if that doesn’t happen, the person will approach you for help. Don’t start the “I told you so” bit and dish out advice like water. Ask relevant questions to make the person himself provide the answers you wanted to give all along; he’ll accept the point faster. If the person is stuck and asks for help, hand out a pointer or 2 to get his mind running.

I’ve worked under a lot of people, but distinctly remember one superior who did exactly what’s written above. He never spoke badly to anyone, never tried showing his authority or tried teaching us what to do. He offered advice when asked or when the situation was critical. Even in the latter, he would ask the person to come up with an action plan after reviewing which he would add pointers if needed. Needless to say, he is one of the most loved and respected people known.

I know this is the hardest thing for us humans. We subconsciously end up judging a situation/person and offer our 2 cents. But merely trying one step of not criticizing anyone (constructively or unconstructively) will change the way we look at the world. We’ll be more patient, accepting and approachable; we’ll broaden our horizons. Plus, the world will start looking at us differently. And remember – today, to stand out, you have to be different.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Something that would add value to this post..courtesy marcandangel.com -

    Don’t speak if it’s not kind; speak only words of kindness. Don’t see everyone’s flaws; look for the good in people. Don’t listen to everything you’re told about others; not everything is truth. Be careful placing judgment upon someone, for you are unaware of the battles they are fighting. Instead, pay closer attention – figure out why they live the way they do. Every person in this life has something to teach you, and as soon as you accept this you open yourself to truly listening and learning.

    1. Superb comment Ramya. Thanks for publishing that post here :)

  3. "If you really want someone to improve, trust his/her capability to learn and improve." - This is true most of the times. However, I have seen people who will not work / chase their dreams unless his / her dear ones do anything about it. Also, I admire the superior you mentioned in your post. Rare in today's times, I must add.

  4. Well written Vishal. However I think criticism and judgement is our second nature today and one cannot expect that can be changed. In this chaotic world of today I think even buddha might have ended up criticizing a few... Just saying :)

  5. I was suggested this web site by way of my cousin. I'm now not positive whether this publish is written by him as nobody else recognise such distinctive about my problem. You are wonderful! Thanks!

  6. Very appropriate take on the topic. We dont criticize positively. And if we think we are doing that, we shouldnt. Thanks for sharing !! :)

  7. Hi, Nice post thanks for sharing. Would you please consider adding a link to my website on your page. Please email me back. Thanks!

    Aaron Grey


badge UA-22264662-1