When we notice someone doing something against the rules, unsafe, or simply that we think is “wrong,” many of us tend to have the same response: we want to criticize. However, if our goal is changing another person’s behavior, whether in a personal or professional setting, criticism is not your most effective method of communication.
“But what’s wrong with criticism?” you may ask yourself. After all, you only mean it to be constructive and helpful, right?
The problem with using to criticism to get someone to change is that it triggers in the other person an unchangeable human characteristic: emotions. As minor as your criticism is, or as tough as your peer may be, when you criticize, what a person essentially hears is “You’re wrong.” Even the best of us receiving criticism inherently feel, somewhere inside, like our judgment, or our overall self, is being disapproved of.
Here are three places where careful communication will produce quicker improvements than criticism:
- Be the Boss: A leader presents a goal to her team; she has faith her teammates will work their hardest to achieve this mission. If she notices someone displaying behavior that takes them away from the team’s goals, the leader’s first impulse may be to tell that person their current behavior is not the right approach. What they should do first, however, is listen. Find out, without accusation, why the person has not been following the team’s particular protocol. Next, you want to stress the positivity of the behavior you want to see from them instead of what you don’t want to see. Avoid bringing up the negatives of the behavior you wished to change. Instead, get them excited about their new direction, rather than making them feel guilty or becoming angry that you were unhappy with their performance!
- On a Team: You are working with a group of team members on a project. You notice that one of your peers is not contributing the same amount or quality of work as the rest of the team. You may want to tell your teammate, “You’re not holding up your end. Now we have to pick up the slack.” But before you do, listen first. How do they feel about the work they’ve already produced, and about the project as a whole? You may find they have been struggling to contribute. Maybe they even have great ideas they were reluctant to express. Once you have put yourself in their shoes, focus on the positive in the desired change. Convey the appreciation you have for their role and presence. Try to get them excited to apply their strengths to the benefit of the project.
- Don’t Criticize Yourself: Sometimes we mess up and criticize others in ways that we regret later. We’re human. We make mistakes. Rather than beat yourself up, focus on what you can learn from the experience. If you need to apologize to the other person, then do so. But what’s most important is that you are kind to yourself and others. Staying positive not only makes you a great role model to others, it’s a far better motivator than being critical of yourself and others.
The next time you want to criticize someone, remember: pause, listen, and emphasize the positivity of the change you want to see, rather than focusing on what you want to correct.
To learn more about ways to bring you success in your life, visit the Syncis blog at http://www.syncis.com/blog/.