Criticism is never constructive


Lakeshia Ekeigwe

Have you ever sat through someone you do not have any respect for or even like, giving you unsolicited and unwelcome ‘constructive criticism?’

Most of us sit through it because we have been told that constructive criticism is vital for our growth and development. We have been led to believe that the person criticizing us is doing so for our own good, even when we know it really doesn’t feel that way

More often than not, constructive criticism feels personal.

When someone asks permission to give their constructive criticism (and, by the way, they always ask permission), they generally do so from their own personal perspective, opinion or bias. Unlike a formal review or evaluation process.

The term ‘constructive criticism’ is often the sword used to injure or kill your confidence by those who don’t like you and may even want to sabotage your personal or professional reputation and happiness.

So, I want to share with you why ‘constructive criticism’ is never constructive and is a confidence killer.

In fact, juxtaposing the two words is actually incongruent.

  • To CONSTRUCT something means to build or to build up;
  • To CRITICIZE means to point out faults and flaws . . . and basically in our modern day vernacular to tear down

You cannot build something up while simultaneously tearing it town. It just isn’t possible.

As indicated above, I find it very interesting that people always ask if they can “offer you some constructive criticism,” seeking your permission to do so. To me, the request signals something is going to be said next that will likely be critical, unkind, harsh or judgmental.

I have seen individuals inflict their criticism onto another under the guise of claiming to help when really they just want to ridicule and belittle that person. They get away with it because we are conditioned to believe we must accept constructive criticism.

But know this . . .

You do not have to submit to being criticized. You can say no to constructive criticism.

Subjecting yourself to someone offering to give you constructive criticism is your accepting their offer to tear you down.   And . . . being torn down kills confidence.

This is not to say, however, that we never need feedback or course-correction. Life is one big learning curve and we all make mistakes and need correction, redirection, and advice to grow.  EVERYONE.

But criticism is different.

I personally do not believe anyone can build a person up (construct) by tearing them down (criticize), no matter how wrong, misguided, irrational or illogical the person or situation may seem.

Do not allow anyone to criticize you without your permission.

And as for me, I NEVER give my permission.

How do I avoid giving my permission?

Well, first of all, I never offer ‘constructive criticism’ to anyone. EVER.

When I want to share my view, thought or opinion with someone about something I feel they may have done wrong, these are the steps I take:

I might begin the conversation like this:

I thought about something you said (or did) and I had an observation. Would you be interested in hearing my thoughts?

If the person says yes, then, I make sure I understand their point of view BEFORE I express my observation. (Because I may not have all the facts which could actually render my observation a moot point.)

So next, I might ask something like:

When you said or did _____, was it your intention to _____? or

I am curious about _____. Will you share your thought process with me?

Once I hear their response, if I still feel the need to express my viewpoint, I preserve their and my dignity and allow the person to contemplate something they may not have previously considered and say something like this:

I wonder if the situation had been handled differently, what the outcome might have been. Do you have any ideas? Let them explain. I listen to their explanation and state what I thought about potential (better) outcomes as well.

 However, if their response is something like this:

You know I wish I had not said (or done) that. I meant to say (or do) this . . . ; or

I wish I could have a do-over on that. I would handle things much differently.

Then, as you can see, there is no need to add to the negative. You could ask how you might support them in the future on better execution.

Also, it does not matter where the “constructive criticism” comes from. It could be your boss, your spouse or your BFF.

The next time you are asked to grant your permission to receive constructive criticism, you might say this:

“I have recently given the term constructive criticism a lot of thought. Do you think it is possible to build someone up and tear them down at the same time?”

I can assure you, the question will get them thinking.

Now if they still want to address a matter that needs attention, you can let them know you would love to have a conversation about their observation to ensure all of the facts are known and you both are on the same page. If so, then you look forward to their insights on solutions that will improve the situation . . . without you having to feel bad about yourself or being criticized.

The conversation can then be mutually positive and course corrective.

Why does this matter?

Because teaching others how to treat you, no matter who they are, will build your confidence.

Allowing people to treat you any way they see fit, with your permission, will not. That actually kills confidence.

So, the next time someone offers you constructive criticism, know that you can actually decline their offer if you want to. Really. You can. You can actually say no to constructive criticism.

If it is someone you love, admire or respect, ask them to share their observation or advice WITHOUT the element of criticism. Teach them how to help you and you both will grow from the experience.

Lakeshia Eeigwe

Coaching women lawyers to creating lives they LOVE!


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