Constructive: (adj) serving a useful purpose; tending to build up
Unfortunately, the word “criticism” seems to have been welded onto “constructive.”
Matter of fact, people frequently talk to me about constructive criticism–how powerful it was for them in honing up their project or beefing up their efforts.
I am not convinced.
So let me be the first one to say that these two words need to be disconnected from each other once and for all.
There are things that are constructive and there are things that are critical. There is no such thing as constructive criticism.
If you’re trying to be constructive, there is no need to be critical.
And if the intention is to establish your value to another person by criticizing, be prepared: it is unlikely that this will have a constructive result.
You can feel free to have constructive remarks, constructive questions, constructive concerns–but once you enter the cave of criticism, you’ve already darkened yourself as an authority to whom others need to bow.
If you really want to be constructive, here are the three questions you should ask someone if you think what he or she is pursuing needs another point of view:
- What is it you are trying to achieve?
- This is what I got off of it. Is that all right?
- Is this what you were looking for?
You can ask these three questions any time, and unless someone is dealing with severe anger management issues, they will be responsive and listen.
But if you change this to “constructive criticism,” which, by the way, is merely altering the questions into statements–(for instance, “I don’t know what you’re trying to achieve,” “I didn’t get it” and “I don’t think other people will comprehend your message either”)–these statements are bruising.
You do not need to agree with me on this, but I contend that merely switching the statements to questions does not take away your power of input.
It merely removes your position of superiority.
(click the elephant to see what he’s reading!)