The Art of Constructive Criticism
Providing helpful criticism you can make a huge difference for another person. You can redirect them if they’re veering off course, save them time, and money, and help them recognize shortcuts they may not be aware of, especially if you’re a little bit ahead of the person you’re talking to.
Even if you’re on the same level as a friend, you are a fresh pair of eyes. You will see things the other person is too close to the project to see for themselves. For example it’s a great idea for people to go over each other’s resumes, cover letters or portfolios and offer suggestions.
The thing is, sometimes it’s hard to present good, genuinely helpful criticism without the other person taking offence. Here are some tips:
Be clear about what they’re asking for
If you’re reading over someone’s awesome script for their upcoming graphic novel about insect monsters, and they want you to read it over for spelling mistakes, don’t make a million notes asking why everyone is an insect and skim over the grammar.
When offering constructive criticism it's important to determine what aspects of the project are relevant for discussion and which ones are not.
Depersonalize your input
Skipping out on personal pronouns makes critique a lot easier to swallow. Critique the project, letter, resume, story about insect monsters etc. not the person who wrote it.
So instead of saying “You said butterflies are monsters over here, but over here you say moths” replace “you” with “it”. “The piece confuses butterflies and moths.”
This makes your criticism sound less accusatory, and more like a pure problem fix.
Always make room for a discussion
Don’t present your opinion as the final word on what must be done. If your friend chooses not to take any of your advice, that is their choice. Don’t get up in arms over it.
If they disagree with a point, ask why, and have a conversation about it. If you two still come to different conclusions, agree to disagree and move on. It’s their piece, not yours.