A chef recently shared that it's difficult to give necessary criticism to other chefs in her kitchen during the dinner rush. She explained that in the moment, it's imperative to point out what's wrong with a dish so it can be immediately corrected before being served to a guest. But because so much criticism takes place, she is concerned about how that affects those she is criticizing.
Understandably so. No one likes to be on the receiving end of criticism, especially if it needs to happen in front of other people. In many situations we have the luxury of dishing out criticism in private, but that's not the case for all.
How can we give spontaneous criticism in a positive manner?
1. Focus on the good things first. In the kitchen example above, it would be important to point out what is right with the dish before expressing what's wrong. There is always something good to focus on, so start with that.
2. Next, ask a question to prompt the critique to happen naturally. In this instance, something like "The consistency of the sauce on this dish is spot on. (That's the positive.) What do you think could be done to make it look a little prettier on the plate? (That's the question to prompt the natural critique.) Asking the question allows the person being criticized to determine the error himself and to suggest solutions.
3. Suggest changes in a positive manner. Once you've listened to the other person's answers to your question, share your thoughts. "In dishes like this, I have found that....." or "I once saw a plate that arranged the sauce like ________, and it was beautiful." Be careful how you word your suggestions. They don't need to sound like demands to be effective. Be aware of your face-- a smile goes a long way.
4. Then, ask for confirmation. After you've hashed out all the possible scenarios and solutions, ask which will work best. "What do you think of that?" and "Do you think that's something we can do here?" are possible ways to word the question. Once you've reached agreement, it's time to move forward.
5. Encourage action. Now that the issue has been raised and addressed, encourage the person to make the necessary changes. Something like "Awesome! Let's do that!" or "Sounds good! Get 'er done!" or "I love your idea. I know you can do it!" are all great ways to compel the change you desire. Demonstrate the desired change if necessary.
One thing to keep in mind here is that criticism is not a condemnation. Don't make the person feel like they're a failure or in trouble. Instead, see the critique as a non-painful way of helping them do better. Build them up. Be their cheerleader. Be kind. Use the criticism to help them reach their potential. Criticism is a teaching tool if done properly. Real life is not a reality TV show-- making someone cry is great for Gordon Ramsay's ratings but not so helpful in real life. Instead, criticize positively. That way no one will be hurt, and everyone will achieve more.
Need help giving positive criticism? Click here to chat with Carrie about how she can help.