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Criticism: Destructive and Constructive

by Dr. Sidney Langston

There is value in distinguishing between two types of criticism and how they differ in intent, quality, and outcome. Destructive criticism is meant to put down, punish or manipulate, and its effect is largely negative. Constructive criticism is supportive and empowering, with a commitment to a positive outcome. Scripture teaches that we can learn from criticism (Proverbs 15:32).


Destructive Criticism Involves:

•A global, all-encompassing accusation that uses words such as never, always, should and ought:  “You never listen.” “You always do this to me.” “You should be more considerate.” “You ought to know better.”;


•An attempt to make the other person feel guilty: “You know how much I count on you.” “I’m very disappointed in you.” “This shows you don’t really care.”;


•An uncontrolled outburst of anger, impatience or shouting to intimidate the other person: “Look at what you’ve done!” “This is the last straw!”;


•The use of old resentments as ammunition: “This is just like the time you . . .” “You remind me of my ‘ex’.” “You’re just like your mother.”;


•The use of emotional blackmail, acting like a martyr: “It’s really hard on me, but I feel it’s my duty to point this out to you.” “Telling you this hurts me more than it hurts you.” “I’m wasting my breath talking to you.”;


•Subtle and manipulative innuendos to coerce the other person: “If you loved me, you’d . . .” “After all I’ve done for you, this is the thanks I get?” “Do what you want, but don’t come crying to me.”; and


•A lengthy monologue in which one side dominates: “Let me finish. I’ve got more to get off my chest.” “I don’t want to hear your excuses.” “You’ll just have to wait.”


Constructive Criticism Tends to Be:

•Warm and supportive:  “I liked your report, and we can talk about additional suggestions over lunch.” “Right now I’m not concerned with what happened but what we can do to make things right again.”;


•Short and specific:  “I like the overall approach and have some questions about this one item.” “Explain to me more about what you mean here.”

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