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Reviving the Lost Art of Constructive Criticism

Get straight to the criticism, but express it very positively: “Wouldn’t it be even better if we did X, wouldn’t it be even better if we did Y?” 

I think we need to be careful when we’re seeking out differences of opinion because that conflict can be very painful and people can get very upset if they don’t get along with each other, so we really need to look for very positive ways to disagree with people. 

I’m fascinated when I look for instance at what I know about Pixar.  So in Pixar there is the collegiate environment, but people are able to disagree with each other and criticize each other’s work because they’ve developed a language.  They call it plusing, so rather than spending all this time to say “Hey I really love what you’re doing, it’s really great work,” before you finally get to the criticism where people have long since ignored because you’re wrapping it in all this fluff.  Instead you get straight to the criticism, but you express it very positively, so you just say “Well that’s great and wouldn’t it be even better if we did X, wouldn’t it be even better if we did Y.”  

Let’s just actually focus on exactly what you want to happen and in a very positive way, very honest and direct wouldn’t we improve if we did it this way and that seems to have great results because we walk this fine line because people hate to be criticized.  They can fold up.  They can go into denial and they can shut out dissenters, so you need that dissent, that disagreement, that criticism, but you have to find a way of making it and wrapping it in a way that will be accepted and listened to.  

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think’s studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


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