Business is not always sunshine and lollipops. Some actions and outcomes demand scrutiny, and you might need to correct someone in the wrong. These moments present tricky communication situations. You must choose your words carefully and keep your emotions in check.
Today’s tips will help you write constructive criticism that maintains relationships and inspires positive growth.
How can I offer constructive criticism?
Be honest about the seriousness of the situation, but avoid personal attacks. Instead, focus on improved processes and team building.
- Begin with the positive before you criticize.
- Focus on the issue of concern, not the reader.
- Expect improvement and offer a pathway to it.
- Invite input from the reader.
- Maintain a team atmosphere: Use “we” instead of “you” to indicate partnership.
Yet another bid rejection, huh? Don’t you guys have any concept of brand management? You sure don’t change the color scheme and hide the logo! Figure it out or your time here will be limited.
I appreciate the work you put into the mock-up of River Run Sports’ outdoor advertising space. Unfortunately, another company won the bid. Our mock-up was eye-catching, but the color scheme didn’t match River Run's brand identity. In addition, the logo did not stand out as much as it should. Let’s learn from this and feature our next client’s branding in any new design concepts.
How can I keep my criticism “cool”?
Strong emotion almost never comes across well in writing and usually makes a bad situation worse. If you’re feeling frustrated or angry, give yourself time to cool off before responding in writing.
Once your emotions are in check, gauge your writing voice. Readers may interpret your writing as more negative than you intended. A neutral message might sound annoyed, and an annoyed one might sound angry. This type of reaction is doubly true for readers on the receiving end of criticism.
To improve your writing voice, raise your level of positivity by one notch. If you are neutral, try to sound positive. If you are annoyed, try to sound neutral. If you are still angry, give yourself more time to cool down.
A Note On "Cooling Down"
Given what you’ve just read, you might find it ironic to learn that the act of writing is actually an effective “cooling down” strategy. By writing about a frustrating situation, you gain a sense of agency and control over it. Plus, venting on a blank document is much less risky than venting at someone face-to-face. Just make sure you delete the doc!