This article outlines why criticizing in a direct, but unabrasive, manner is helpful to your social goals.
Giving criticism is an act with a specific goal in mind. The point of criticizing is to deliver something truthful but painful in a digestible form. With this being the guiding principle, the process of delivering criticism becomes simpler to perform. The critique can be blunt, but it will be limited in its abrasion due to originating from a place of neutrality. A tendency to stick to the goal of delivering truth encourages those delivering that truth to be even keeled, and the one being criticized to take it well.
The chances of the interaction going poorly are increased when critiques contain emotional inputs that are rooted with nefarious intent and veer away from a positive goal-driven process. The desire to criticize someone is good at fooling those who feel that need.
Negative feelings that you may not recognize day to day – but which guide your actions in the world – can encourage the need to criticize others without purpose. It is thereby vital that your desire to criticize abides by the rule of seeking to genuinely aid or improve those you criticize and to do so in a factual manner.
Why Being Indirect When Criticizing Doesn’t Make Sense
When criticism is driven by the goal of honest improvement, there is no room for indirect dialogue. Attempting to deliver criticism indirectly counterproductively leaves open the possible interpretation that your criticism is coming from a bad place.
Ones who care only for the betterment of the person they’re criticizing don’t care for having their critiques be misinterpreted. They try to avoid it.
Firstly, they want to deliver the truth in an effective way so that their listener understands and internalizes it. Secondly, they want to ensure that the listener does not suspect negativity to be the driving force of the criticism’s delivery.
People who care for the betterment of the person they criticize tend to stick to the direct truth in a precise manner. They’d have already accounted for the risk of misinterpretation and decided on delivering criticism anyway. They thereby seek to reduce that risk as much as they can. Being indirect does not serve to aid in reducing the risk of a critique being misinterpreted.
Expecting Honesty From the Criticized
You will hope for honesty from those you criticize when you criticize them with the best intentions. Starting the process of delivering criticism with a semblance of dishonesty will not set a good precedent. Indirect language and honest delivery of points are difficult to concurrently pull off. Insinuations and other forms of indirect communication introduce a fogginess to the delivery of criticism. The room for misinterpretation grows, and assumptions run rampant.
Allowing for your audience’s mind to wander as to possible interpretations will not encourage honesty from them in return. The hope for humility depends on no negative feelings traveling in either direction in such a transaction.
The act of concealing a truthful criticism opens up the door for a concealed response to it. Those you criticize subtly will be encouraged to receive it subtly too. They will tend to hide the pain felt from their misinterpretation of your intentions, and not credit you with lessons learned.
Direct honesty when criticizing someone – even if painful at first – encourages an honest response to the critique in question. The pain will be honest and so will the lessons learned when cooler heads prevail.
Direct Compliments Are More Effective if Criticisms Are Direct Too
Being known as a straight shooter is a reputation that is established when dialogue isn’t necessarily positive and light-hearted. Giving compliments is easy because it does not pick at the listener’s vulnerabilities, rather, it provides what they want to hear. The social risk in delivering compliments is low and the reward is high. Giving compliments is thereby more attractive to dishonest individuals and compliment-giving rarely establishes a reputation of honesty.
Poignant criticism has the ability to establish the critic as an honest individual because that individual takes a social risk in delivering a painful but true critique. A reputation of honesty formed by being a direct and honest critic only helps when it is time to give compliments.
A reputation of being an honest (sometimes painfully) individual will propel your compliments further as you’d be considered someone who isn’t shy in delivering painful dialogue when it is deserved. Your compliments will thereby be considered as deserved and honest in their intent because if you didn’t mean them, you wouldn’t say them.