How to Console Someone Receiving Harsh, but True, Criticism

Your friends aren’t perfect. They’re bound to make some mistakes while doing the work they do and going on the ventures they go on. Your friends will sometimes embarrass themselves even; they’ll take a chance at doing something great only to fall short in their attempts.

You’ll find yourself wanting to console those close to you when they embarrassingly fail. Failures of theirs would give birth to others’ critiques, which may be fully warranted up to a certain point. With that said, others’ failures don’t come with the permission to freely select how intensely we’d like to criticize them. Those who’ve truthfully failed don’t always deserve the extent of the reactions their failures bring about.

The balancing act of acknowledging truthful criticism from others whilst limiting how painful those critiques are to your friends is delicate. You’ll need to console while being rational and truthful about their shortcomings.

This article is about times when we need to console our friends whilst remaining truthful about shortcomings in their work / performance.


Defend Them Against Malicious Attempts to Hurt

The first thing to keep an attentive eye on when someone you care for is receiving harsh criticism, are malicious attempts by others to hurt feelings rather than simply provide feedback. Attempts at malice will stand out from otherwise harsh but normal feedback.

Malicious attempts at ensuring harsh feedback causes the most pain often give birth to statements about an individual’s personality rather than their work.

Malicious critics will often tag their critiques with opinions of the person behind the work they’re critiquing. They’ll exclaim how unskilled those they’re critiquing are. They’ll try to draw the public’s attention onto the individual’s shortcomings. They’ll bring up past mistakes the individual in question made, and these critics will attempt to draw connections between an individual and their work where there aren’t any.

Your first task when finding yourself in a situation which calls on you to lessen the burn of public criticism of someone else, is to look out for times when the criticism turns into attacks.


Be quick to call out any toxic attempts at hurting feelings rather than simply criticizing a piece of work.


The effect this has on the individual being criticized will be powerful. They will understand that those attempting to cause them pain while critiquing a piece of work would be operating in a biased fashion. Should others remain silent in the face of malicious personal attacks disguised as critiques, the receiver of those critiques will be likelier to take those comments to heart as they’d perceive silence to be compliance from others.

By debunking people’s attempts at causing malice, and calling them out on making things personal when they shouldn’t, you unveil their true motives. Such critics will be exposed in having a primary goal of bringing someone pain rather than critiquing a piece of work. Their criticism thereby, will be clouded and devalued by that fact. Their words will lose power in the face of their bias’ expose.


The Importance of Expressing Things They Did Well

Saying the things people did well is perhaps an obvious piece of advice to aid your efforts to console them. However, there’s use in exploring why you should soothe criticism of someone else’s work by mentioning the things they did well.

Voicing what someone did well when everyone else is telling them all about the things they did poorly helps to snap their negative self-worth from spiraling into oblivion. For even just a minute or two, you’d be able to get them out of the hellish perception which comes with being ruthlessly critiqued.

You’d serve as a safety line for a climber whose grip slipped off the rock they clung onto.

You’d do well to keep them in an objective frame of mind, as your compliments of their work would be grounded in truth.

In order to be truthful with your compliments while you analyze a piece of work which may not be up to par, remember the power of segmentation.

When segmented enough, you can find something to compliment in just about anything. Segment the work / performance of those you’re trying to console into smaller and smaller sections to analyze.

An article such as this for example, can be segmented into formatting, writing style, content, clarity, and length for each segment to be analyzed separately. This article can thereby fail in most of the segments which form its whole, but you’d still be able to compliment it on the segment which it performed well in.

Expressing the things that people do well through segmentation gives them an important reference while attempting to get their weaknesses up to that level. They’d be able to have a reference point of what good performance / work looks like, and would be able to work on their weaknesses so that they align by that standard.


The Things They Did Well Will Be Even Better If They Correct Their Mistakes

Simply presenting the mistakes that someone made in an effort to make them fix those mistakes is a tough task to pull off. By default, mistakes are uncomfortable. We don’t make mistakes because we want to, but because we have no choice but to. Mistakes are shortcomings, and most shortcomings are involuntary until one makes a concerted effort to work on those shortcomings.

In an effort to motivate someone to maintain a healthy frame of mind in correcting their mistakes, framing those mistakes properly is an important task.

Rather than presenting one’s mistakes which hurt the image / reputation of the person that you’re talking to, present their mistakes to be downplaying the things they did well.

While trying to protect the things we’re good at, we seem to get motivated to fix things which may be restraining our strengths.

As you would have already told someone about the things they did well, they’d somewhat begin to identify as being good at those things. Those identities they form are what you should motivate them to cultivate and improve.

The mistakes they make in other segments of their work thereby, should be packaged in a way that hurt their segmented identities of things done well. In order to further improve on the things they did well, tell these people about the weaknesses they should at least address.

In continuing with the article example from before, citing someone’s content to be strong but their formatting to be taking away from their content’s impressiveness will motivate them to properly format their articles.

You would thereby add a layer between someone’s mistake and their full identity. Their mistake wouldn’t be hurting them as an individual in others’ eyes but it would be hurting the segmented things they do well as an individual.

This method of presenting the mistakes someone did well in a healthy way protects people’s pride. Rather than eliciting a mindset of playing not to lose, you’d motivate the cultivation of their desire to further win.

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.