Give Better Feedback: Include These 3 Parts of Constructive Criticism

We all give and receive feedback, but we often miss these 3 keys to effective constructive criticism.

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image credit: Death to Stock

No matter what your job is, or what role you play in the lives of people around you, you need feedback. Whether the environment is home, business, church, organizations, or even relationships, feedback is essential. Criticism shows us what is lacking in our work and lives, and constructive criticism presents a clear way to address it.

It helps us leave behind something and move toward what’s better.

What the Internet Did

The advent of the Internet has transformed everyone into an artist, a producer, and a marketer.

We all create our own content, to one degree or another. [If you want someone to do it for you, I can help.] We all decide what content to pay attention to, and what content to ignore. We all decide what to share and how to present ourselves online.

When it comes to how we use the Internet, we’re all becoming creators (if we weren’t already). So in our writing, filmmaking, photographing, designing, sharing, connecting, and everything else we do, we can put the best work out there. No half-hearted work. No half-hearted play, either.

I put together a few thoughts about giving and receiving feedback, which I shared while coaching a group of writers. If we each want to hone our crafts and do our best in whatever we do, we’ll have to incorporate good use of feedback and constructive criticism.

Maybe something here can help you, too.

3 Essential Parts of Constructive Criticism

Lawrence Miller said:

“The achievement of excellence can only occur if the organization promotes a culture of creative dissatisfaction.”

Be dissatisfied with less than the best work. We can do better.

We should never think we’ve reached excellence, because that’s when we lose our creative drive. Keep pressing forward. We’re not done chasing excellence until God tells us it’s over.

How do we keep chasing excellence? Offer and accept feedback.

How Do You Give Good Feedback?

Good feedback requires these 3 characteristics:

  1. Good feedback is consistent, not sporadic.
  2. Good feedback is specific, not ambiguous.
  3. Good feedback is constructive, not destructive.

Constructive Criticism

The point of Constructive Criticism is to create work in which the best idea wins.

To find the best ideas, we must be willing to give and accept input. Allow others to speak into the project. With a variety of perspectives, backgrounds, and styles, we can push past the good to the best.

Good is the enemy of the best. (tweet that)

“The best way to get a good idea is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away.” – Linus Pauling

When you give constructive criticism to someone else, be specific.

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Good Constructive Criticism Always Includes 3 Things

1. Constructive criticism includes what is good.

  • Always start with something positive. Show them what they did well.
  • Treating people well always comes before—but not at the expense of—doing the best work.

2. Constructive criticism includes what is bad.

  • If you don’t include what’s missing or wrong, there’s no clear way to move forward into something better.

3. Constructive criticism includes why something is good or bad.

  • Why is huge. It’s the driving force of all our creative decisions.
  • We don’t want to do their work for them, but to give them tools to do better work in the future.
  • Think of your role here as mentoring: point them the direction, tell them why it’s best direction, then give them the freedom to rework and reshape it.

“Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it is found.” — James Russell Lowell (tweet that)

Now get out there and do great work, offering and accepting meaningful feedback.

What’s missing from this description of feedback and constructive criticism? Leave a comment below.


Learn more about listening to the right voices and making better choices in your work, relationships, and life. Sign up here to read a chapter from my upcoming book, The Variable Life: Finding Clarity and Confidence in a World of Choices.

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2 responses to “Give Better Feedback: Include These 3 Parts of Constructive Criticism

  1. “We should never think we’ve reached excellence, because that’s when we lose our creative drive.”
    Great article John, but can a work be excellent without being perfect? Therefore should we not be satisfied by excellence whilst continuing the pursuit of perfection.

    • Good point, Jared. I was thinking of the tendency to rest on our laurels if we think we’ve reached the point of being excellent. Of course, there’s always a new project to shift focus to. Yes, a work can be excellent without being perfect. I wonder if perfect projects even exist, but I think projects perfect for their context (for that time) might. The simultaneous good thing and troubling thing with ongoing works is there’s always more to refine.

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