OBSERVATION: Authentic constructive criticism must be motivated by a sincere desire to help, and delivered in a way that engenders gratitude rather than defensiveness or resentment.

If you want to be a positive force in someone’s life, it’s wise to remember that few people are truly open to criticism of any sort from any source. If you want to grow, understand more, and get better at whatever you do, it’s wise to be open to learn from every sort of criticism from any source.

Implicit in every criticism, regardless of its true intent, is the message that whatever the person being criticized did wasn’t good enough. Whether the criticism suggests that they did something poorly, or merely suggests how it could have done it better, the instinctive reaction to criticism is defensiveness, and often resentment.

Caring parents, teachers and friends should do what they can to help someone they care about understand more or get better, but the timing, tone and precise wording of the criticism must be thoughtfully calculated to achieve a positive effect.

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