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Constructive criticism

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Constructive criticism is the act of offering a reasoned critique and suggestions for improvement, based upon an appropriate standard of evaluation. Because of its helpful aims and its connection to the principle of cooperation, constructive criticims may apply to a wide variety of professional and personal situations.

Constructive criticism is especially suitable for educational debate. For instance, after a round of debate, judges, trainers, or coaches may provide not only evaluations for each speaker, but also corresponding suggestions for improvement. Constructive criticism is also useful for teamwork or situations that call for several people to work together. A team of debaters may have differing skill levels or differing points of view. Rather than simply clashing with one another through harsh criticism, if team members provide constructive comments alongside their relevant and reasonably expressed critiques, then the members of a debate team will be able to work together in a mutually respectful and mature manner.

In situations where people must work together, criticism tempered by politeness and constructive assistance helps ease tensions and solve problems. Certainly, it is rather easy to criticize someone or something; but constructive criticism calls for reasoned argument, objectivity, and an openess to other points of view. Moreover, constructive criticism asks for a careful delivery of such criticism, and, of course, stresses cooperation by urging the critic to offer helpful suggestions.

In some instances, the critic may volunteer or be asked to help remedy what he or she sees as problematic. For instance, a small youth advocacy group may have to discuss ways in which to improve educational opportunities for youth in their community. Member A may bring a plan of action to the group. However, Member B may criticize Member A's plan of action. By adhering to the value of constructive criticism, Member B may volunteer his or her time and energies to improve the situation. In other words, rather than being a voice of criticism and deconstructing the group's efforts, the Member B takes an active role in remedying his or her group's plan of action. As illustrated by this example, constructive criticism makes a critic responsible for his or her critiques in the aim of upholding the value of cooperation and with the goal of making a positive and practical impact. For another example, consider the difficulty between a skilled debater and a novice debater on the same team. The experienced debater may feel as though the novice debater is slowing down his or her team. As a result, the skilled debater may put down the new debater. However, if the skilled debater displays maturity and respect, he or she will remember the importance of constructive criticism. So, the skilled debater needs to become more careful when offering criticism; furthermore, the skilled debater could volunteer his or her time to help the new debater. Once again, the critic takes responsibility for his or her criticism and thus, takes an active part in helping a team member.

Since criticisms can be veer into a long list of complaints, constructive criticism safeguards the tendency to veer into nothing but criticism, by reigning in the critical side of ourselves with the reminder of one's responsibility as a critic to help whomever or whatever is being criticized. In this way, constructive criticism relates to other topic of being critical versus critical thinking.

Constructive criticism asks for responsibility, flexibility, and awareness when offering criticism. In some instances and with some people, overly harsh criticism can have a negative impact. So, the critic needs to be sensitive to his or her audience. In addition, the critic may need to be sensitive to cultural differences, linguistic differences, educational differences, and so on. Adjusting the way one delivers criticism is also beneficial to the critic. By being more aware of how one may offer criticism, the critic becomes a helpful source of advice, rather than an angry person who likes to rant and thus may not be taken too seriously by the recipients of such criticism. Ranting and other sorts of non-constructive outbursts can give one a negative reputation, so critics also benefit from tempering their criticism with sensitivity and helpful suggestions.

Having said that, the helpful critic needs to be careful not to be paternalistic, that is, by offering suggestions in a non-genuine manner, a passive-aggressive manner, or in a way that undermines the person or thing being criticized. On that note, in terms of paying attention to personal sensitivities, when delivering or receiving criticism, one should not deliver or receive the criticism personally. It is a performance (in a debate), an essay (in a class), or a plan of action (in an organization) that should be the object of criticism, rather than a particular person or group of people. Of course, negative generalizations of a person or group of people often veer into prejudice, which may lead to even more negative (and unwarranted) criticisms.

Constructive criticism, then, is one means to help keep the emotional element (anger on the part of the deliverer and sensitivity on the part of the receiver) of criticism in check. Additionally, constructive criticism highlights the importance of responsiblity and genuinely helpful cooperation in communication involving evaluations and assessments.

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