Objective Criticism: An Essential Leadership Skill

objective criticismKnowing how to give objective criticism is a skill that can be helpful in many areas of life; however, it is particularly helpful for those working in a business where interpersonal interaction is necessary and/or those working in a leadership role. While the idea of criticizing someone, even objectively, can be intimidating and nerve-wracking, there are a few guidelines that you can follow to ensure that you are able to criticize effectively.

When you are able to do so, you should be able to inspire and influence positive changes in others, which is a valuable ability in business as well as in personal relationships. To learn more about leadership in business, take Udemy’s Leadership and Change course; this course will provide additional tips on how to coach your team at work. If you’re just starting out in a leadership role, Udemy also has a course called Transition to Leadership to help you make a smooth transition to you leadership position.

Learning More About Objective Criticism

To begin using objective criticism properly, you should first learn the characteristics of good objective criticism. A few of these characteristics are as follows:

  • Objective criticism is not intended to be malicious and is instead motivated by the desire to encourage improvement.
  • Objective criticism should not include personal attacks or overly negative language.
  • Objective criticism seeks to include facts that are impossible to dispute.
  • Objective criticism seeks to use the expression of unbiased thoughts and reason rather than the expression of emotions and personal preference.

Simply, a good definition for objective criticism is constructive feedback based on unbiased thoughts and facts rather than emotion and personal preference. The opposite of objective criticism is subjective criticism. Some common defining characteristics of subject criticism include the following:

  • Subjective criticism relies heavily on opinion and tends to include negative language.
  • Subjective criticism can be very biased due to the fact that it is usually based heavily on emotion and personal preference.
  • Subjective criticism can come across as more harsh and disrespectful than objective criticism.

Using objective criticism rather than subjective criticism usually makes the logic behind judgments and decisions more apparent. Subjective criticism does have certain value and uses, but objective criticism can be a more beneficial type of feedback because it is less likely to offend and is more likely to promote performance improvement and greatness. As stated in Udemy’s Leadership Strengths blog post, the empowerment of others is something that a good leader should strive for. By objectively criticizing someone correctly, you can empower them to excel.

Now that you know the characteristics of good objective criticism that you should use, you can learn the best ways to put those characteristics into practice. Honing your skills at giving others objective feedback can take time, but is important to learn to promote positive progress in others. Some of the best practices for giving others good, objective feedback include the following:

Separating Your Emotions from the Situation

Giving effective objective feedback means ridding yourself of emotions that may sway your decisions/thoughts. While you should take into account the emotions of the person that you are criticizing so that you do not offend or humiliate them, you must keep your own emotions at bay; if your feedback is biased and/or emotion-based, it cannot be truly objective.

Use Logic and Facts Rather than Personal Preferences

When you use logic and facts rather than personal preference, it is usually much more difficult for someone to dispute you. It is likely that you will be seen as more a credible and stable leader if you keep personal preferences out of your feedback.

Be Specific

Good criticism should be very specific so that the person you are criticizing knows exactly what needs to be improved; when you have given someone this type of feedback, they should know exactly what you expect of them and they should want to make it happen. This is an effective way to avoid confusion and misunderstandings while encouraging positive changes.

Avoid Personal Attacks and Excessive Negative Language

When you avoid personal attacks and negative language, it is more likely that the person you are criticizing will not become offended and feel the need to respond defensively. This can help keep you conversation professional and constructive.

Criticize During One-on-One Situations

Objectively criticizing a person while others are around can be humiliating and embarrassing for that person. It can also make them resentful of you and defensive, which can hurt your relationship and make them less open to accepting criticism from you in the future. When you provide objective criticism in a one-on-one situation, the person may still be uncomfortable, but they won’t have to worry about others forming opinions of them based on the criticism.

Be Positive

Generally, people are more receptive to feedback and criticism when positive language is used. While criticism isn’t entirely positive, you should try to include some positive points so that the person you are criticizing is put at ease and does not leave feeling worthless. This will help you establish a rapport with that person and they are more likely to be open to what you have to say.

Have a plan

While you don’t want to recite your conversation with the person you are criticizing in a robotic way, you should have a plan for how the conversation will take place. When you have a few main points in mind and stick to them, it is easier to get your point across without becoming distracted or sidetracked by something irrelevant to the conversation. This helps ensure that the person you are objectively criticizing receives your message with clarity.

Focus on Changing the Behavior Instead of the Person

When you give good objective criticism, you seek to avoid placing blame on a person and, instead, seek to help them change negative actions. One way to do this is to avoid negative “you” statements. The following list contains a few examples of these types of “you” statements:

  • “You always do this incorrectly.”
  • “You are always late to work.”
  • “You still haven’t learned how to do your job properly.”

As you can probably see, the above statements accuse a person of wrongdoing instead of seeking to understand and help change the inadequate behavior. Rather than accuse someone with a negative “you” statement, you should attempt to comprehend why their behavior is the way that it is and seek to help them become a better person. The following list shows a few examples of good statements that you can use to put this into practice:

  • I have noticed that this task has been performed incorrectly. How can I help you to ensure that you understand how to perform it?
  • You are usually a reliable employee, but I have noticed that you have been late for the past several days in a row. Is everything okay?
  • What can I do to ensure that you know how to properly perform your job duties?

These three above statements are much more effective than the aforementioned negative “you” statements because they help ensure that the person you are criticizing will not become offended and unreceptive to what you are saying.

Clearly, the ability to give objective criticism can play a crucial role for a person in leadership, especially in a business role. To learn how you can further develop and improve your leadership style, take Udemy’s Developing Your Leadership Style course. Alternatively, you can take Udemy’s Infused Coaching: The Psychology of Modern Leadership to learn a more psychology-based approach to leading others. With an online course at Udemy.com today, you can learn many different habits and techniques that will help you to advance your leadership skills and empower others to succeed.