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On Critiquing and Kindness

Good morning, dear readers!

I can’t remember if I’ve written on this before, but I’m going to do it anyway! I think a lot about the balance of critique versus kindness, both in my job as an academic advisor for adult learners and in my interactions with other creative friends, most namely, my husby and co-creator Aiden. How much critique is too much or not enough? How do I show kindness when I think there are glaring problems with something? If I’m too kind, will they take my critique seriously? If I’m too critical, will it hurt their feelings and shake their self-confidence?

I’m someone who is way too critical of myself, and I sometimes forget that not everyone else is. My critiques can be quite harsh if I’m not careful. I’ve definitely hurt Aiden’s feelings early on in his writing journey because I did not keep in mind the fact that he was very new to writing and very self-conscious. Through talking things out with him and trying to be more self-aware, I’ve become better at and continue to work towards balancing honest critique with kindness.

Often we are not trained to give balanced feedback. We focus on the negatives because that’s how our brains are wired. It takes real effort and awareness of ourselves to get better at giving encouraging feedback instead of just criticism. Criticism is necessary for people to improve, but unless it’s balanced by a knowledge of one’s strengths, all that’s absorbed is how bad you are at something.

So what does kind critique look like? The Harvard Business Review has a great article on this, and they’re way more eloquent than I’m going to be, so if you’d like to hear from the professionals, I highly recommend checking it out right here! But for me, kind critique centers on a person’s strengths. What have they already done well? What do you know they’re good at? What have they clearly put a lot of effort into? Recognize and name those specific things to put the person you’re critiquing in a more positive, confident space. Then, bring up some of the things you feel could use some polishing. Be honest with what your thoughts are, but approach the conversation with an attitude that says, “I know you got this!” That way, the person knows you believe they are capable of improving.

Thank you all for reading, and I hope you found some of this to be helpful. Have a wonderful day!


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