Steps to Assertiveness:-Criticism V’s Constructive Feedback

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Last time; I discussed benefits of being open to receiving Constructive Feedback and some Tips on helping to make it a little easier. Equally important in moving towards assertiveness is the ability to give constructive feedback as opposed to criticism.

Within this Article, I will highlight the difference between Criticism and Constructive Feedback. and provide a simple framework to give Constructive Feedback.

Criticism can be described as highlighting one’s faults or shortcomings. The style is often blaming and judging and can come across as an attack on one’s character. This is largely due to the way in which it’s expressed. Frequently; it starts with pointing the finger by using ‘You’ and includes generalizations such as ‘always’ and ‘neverA good example of using criticism would beYou’re so selfish, its always the same with you,, you will never learn’

Equally important in defining a critical approach are non-verbal messages. These include; Body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. Examples of critical body language are; a look of disgust/disdain, rolling eyes, shrugging, deliberately ignoring. Although; tone of voice is typically abrupt or disrespectful, it can also be expressed in a nice as pie, I am only saying this for your own good kind of way!

Effects of Criticism
Have a think for a moment about how you feel and what you experience when someone speaks to you in that way. Do you feel closer to, or further away from the person criticizing you? chances are that those whom you criticize will have a similar reaction!

Although, their may be some truth in the criticism and you may be justified in your point, the message is often lost. This is as a largely due to the fact that the way in which the feedback is delivered will result in the recipient feeling disrespected, attacked or undermined. The natural response to this is to retaliate, by attacking back or withdrawing, Thus; causing further damage to the relationship.

Constructive Feedback
Constructive Feedback is in stark contrast to criticism, in that it’s expression is respectful and it separates the behavior from the person, as opposed to attacking their entire being.  It focuses on specific instances, rather then exaggerating, by using generalizations such as ‘Always and ‘Never‘  ‘You’re so selfish’ is replaced with: ‘I feel you are only thinking of your own needs here’ or “I don’t think that you are considering me at all in this”.  Sounds quite different doesn’t it.  Ask yourself which style is more likely to get someones back up?

As well as choice of words, it’s equally  important to have respectful body language, facial expressions and tone of voice.  Chances are the one you giving feedback to will still feel offended if you glare at them, roll your eyes or shout at them when expressing your feelings. To steer away from criticism and move towards corrective feedback Ask yourself:

How can I give feedback in a Direct, Open, Respectful and confident way?
If I were receiving feedback how would I like it said to me?

To demonstrate the  differences between these approaches, lets use an exapmle.

Criticism V’s Constructive feedback Example.

Your colleague Mary has been 15 minutes late for the last 3 meetings.
You’re frustrated, because it disrupts the meeting and means you have to repeat information already given.  You also feel it is disrespectful.

Critical Approach

A critical approach would go something like. “Mary. I can’t believe you’re late again!I am so sick and tired of this, You’re never on time. You are unprofessional, disrespectful and rude. If you continue to be late I will report this to your manager!

This approach will most likely result in Mary feeling judged, attacked, or even threatened. Mary may attack back or withdraw and carry anger and resentment. Thus leading  to further conflict and damage to the working relationship.

Constructive Feedback Approach.
This approach is always respectful and focuses on expressing the effects of Mary’s behaviour. The following is a framework that can help to implement this style.

Goal/Desired outcome

Situation:  Mary, I have noticed you have been late for the last 3 meetings
Effect: I find this frustrating, as I have to repeat information that we have already gone through, I also feel disrespected.
Goal: Going forward, I really need you to be on time for meetings.
Consequence:  If you continue to be late, I will inform your supervisor’

Using this approach helps to move away from attacking or Judging Mary, towards expressing how Mary’s behaviour effects you and what you want her to change. This is an Assertive way of communicating as it is Direct, open, respectful and confident.

This is just one of the skills to learn to replace criticism with constructive feedback. On Aspire Assertiveness Courses,we provide the necessary tools and frameworks for giving and receiving Constructive feedback, as well as the opportunity to practice these skills. All information is available in the courses section of our website

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