Be as specific in your praise as you are your criticism.

Dog balancing cup by SuperFantastic at flickr.com“Overall we’re very satisfied with your work…”

Even when this statement is true, it sounds hollow and vague.

But the critiques that follow it are always specific, and often painful to hear.

I know, I often use variations of this line myself.

But when it’s used on me, I realize how it comes off as an empty platitude.

How should you respond?

One way is to avoid giving criticism or corrective feedback. There are some who advocate this path. They say you’ll get farther with only praise than you ever would with only criticism.

If you look through my blog posts, you’ll see I’m far too opinionated for that approach to work for me.

There is another alternative, though. You can make your praise just as specific as your criticism.

Instead of saying “you did a good job chairing that meeting (followed by the inevitable “but…”),” you can say, “I thought you did an excellent job giving the group time for informal discussion and then gently bringing us back on topic.”

Yes, it takes more thought to pick out specific examples of what to praise, but it’s much more meaningful for the person who hears it.

And if we want their continued support, we owe them this extra work.

And we especially owe it to them if we’re going to offer corrective feedback.

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