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Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Everybody

I made a mistake for an organisation I volunteer for recently, only a small one with very minor consequences, but was 'bawled out' in no uncertain terms in front of others, by the person I report to. I tactfully reminded him I am an unpaid volunteer and was told that was irrelevant.

Naturally I didn't have the best of days after that. It reminded me of a great boss I once had who used to begin a reprimand by saying in private 'I have spotted an opportunity for you to improve'. Compare the two above approaches, no prizes for guessing which worked best for me!

This has led me to write a post about what works best - criticism or praise? Can our children today handle criticism when at school it seems all they receive is praise, even for not very good effort or work? Are employers these days very skilled at how to motivate, correct behaviours and give positive criticism?

It seems to me that 'Thanks' is indeed the most neglected form of compensation!

My Grand Daughter asked me last week what I thought of the story she had written. I made it clear that I was very happy to do so, but was she happy for me to say the good things as well as things that I thought she could improve on? Having her agree to that led to a pretty successful 'review' of her story and she happily agreed she had learnt from my gently constructive criticisms.

My neighbour teaches at a primary school and agrees that kids being unable to handle criticism is a pretty big problem. If they are not open to feedback, how will they progress and improve? Apparently they are saying that they cannot handle criticism so please don't give it to me! Wow so how are those children expected to cope when entering the workplace later in life with all the pressures, ups and downs, disgruntled bosses and criticism they might well encounter?

My belief is that everyone will learn better from not only praise, but also their mistakes, as long as they are recognised and discussed positively with an outcome in mind. To give feedback that is only positive all the time, regardless of the quality of the work, is a misguided effort to improve self esteem.

It certainly is a skill to give constructive criticism, as it is also a skill to welcome criticism, embrace it, be thankful for it and act on it.

Someone once said to me when reviewing work - 'Give three positive strokes before a negative one'.

Thoughts on that?

Anyway, of course I am very happy to receive any feedback on this thread!

Bye for now, The Bro

6 Replies 6

Community Champion
Community Champion

The bro

what a thoughtful thread. You write well and discuss interesting concepts.

In public speaking I learnt if the sandwich approach to feedback.

first slice say something positive

filling , room for improvement

second slice something positive

I don’t like the term constructive criticism, for me it is either constructive feedback or it is critical.

At school the teacher used the red pen to point out our mistakes but never told us what we did well.
I feel encouragement is better than praise. Instead of saying you are a great artist to a child, you say I like the way you draw faces, use colour. Encouraging gives specific feedback while praise is general and sometimes not genuine.

just my thoughts. Thanks

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi there Quirkywords and thanks for your feedback.

I do like the Sandwich analogy!

The Bro

Hi The Bro,

Great post! The sandwich thing was also the first thing that came to my mind as well.

There's also a rule of thumb in relationships from Gottman (who does a lot of research there) saying we need to have 5 positive comments for every 1 negative comment which I thought was interesting too.

For me I'm fairly sensitive so I do struggle a bit with criticism, but that's probably because when I was given criticism in the past it was really just cruel comments with nowhere to go. Something like "well, that's stupid"- what am I supposed to do with that information? But if you say "I like that you did this but it would be cool if you did this" is also criticism but feels so different. Maybe the kids at the primary school are having the same experiences. Criticism done right in my view is where you don't realise it's criticism at all.


Hi there RT

Yes what you say is so true - the best form of criticism is not realised as criticism at all.

Like that Boss I had that used to say 'I'd like to discuss an opportunity for improvement' to me!

All the best, The Bro

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi The Bro

Brilliant thread, inspiring great thought. Thank you for the inspiration 🙂

I believe it takes a skillful person to inspire another to open their mind to what works or works better. Like with your first boss and like with you and your granddaughter, both are perfect examples of inspiring greater vision in another. I believe, it takes no skill at all when it comes to degrading a person, such as with tearing them to pieces in front of others. So, you could say while one of your bosses was skillful the other was without skill or significant tools in constructive management.

I think with such a highly sensitive generation now in existence, they've got something to teach us. They're sensitive to what's insulting, to what's degrading and to what's depressing. While previous generations may have been conditioned to accept or suppress the feelings that come with what's insulting, degrading and depressing, this generation has issues with that. So, you could say they're here to teach us or remind us of what doesn't work or no longer works (destructive criticism). Perhaps they're here to teach us that words do have impact so be careful, not careless, with the words we choose. Sounds like you're someone who's definitely tuned into being careful (full of care). You're a brilliant inspiring teacher/leader of people, your granddaughter included.

While it takes an inspiring person to open and evolve the mind of another, through constructive guidance and seemingly endless possibility, what destructive criticism does to an already open mind (a child's mind) can be brutal.

It takes a sensitive person to feel whether guidance or a particular path is constructive or destructive. With kids naturally being highly sensitive, they can easily tell you what guidance or path they're feeling 🙂

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Gidday the rising and thanks so much for your post.

You are obviously a thinker and also very self aware which I really like.

Your words about how today's generation is conditioned quite differently to praise or criticism is great fuel for thinking over many hours!

Yes I have certainly changed over the years from being egocentric to quite accepting of criticism of any sort. Looking back, there is always some truth in criticism that nourishes personal development.

All the best for now, The Bro