Let’s avoid the use of the “C” word please….

Image via Shutterstock
Criticism Vs Feedback

There it is again. The “C” word. On a professional social media site too.

No. Not that “C” word. And No. Absolutely not that “C” word.

What I’m talking about is the word “criticism”. In my opinion an ugly word that makes me outwardly cringe and screw up my face into deep brow-furrows.

So what is it about this word that offends me so much?

Whilst the original definition of the word had both negative and positive connotations, more recently “criticism” has come to stand for “passing judgement” on something (or someone) often with objection. With a negative bias then, criticism is likely to be received in an accusatory way, thereby evoking a defensive response.

Criticism implies that you have “mind read” the world of another. “Judging” something or someone means you are likely to attribute all your own “baggage” – your beliefs, your values, your “stuff” to your opinions.

And there are even more furrows to my brow when we add the word “constructive” to “criticism”…….Now I read it as a snide passing of judgment implying that your personal objection can and should be considered valid. That you’ve passed judgment on me and are far more superior to me. I’m definitely not won over on that one.

So, what’s the solution here? It’s this.

Let’s avoid the use of the “C” word and instead replace it with the far superior “F” word. Feedback.

Let’s replace judgment with curiosity so we are better placed to understand the “baggage” and “stuff” that’s going on for someone else.

Let’s ensure we consider the characteristics of high quality feedback so we deliver our message with the very best intentions.

In the case of Criticism Vs Feedback, there is only one winner.

The highest quality feedback is:

  • Delivered face-to-face and one-to-one
    Communication is optimised when we are in the same room as another
  • About what is changeable – concentrate on the development of the person you are feeding back to. THINK, is it


  • A two-way conversation
  • Based on two outcomes
    Motivational feedback to inspire and motivate someone to carry on doing what they are doing
  • Developmental feedback to help identify new and/or better ways of doing something
  • Delivered in a timely manner. Delivering feedback three months down the line at an annual appraisal will not have the same impact as feedback delivered soon after an event
  • Factual, with examples based on your first-hand experience (definitely not hearsay)
  • Focused on future development – suggest improvements or changes that will aid the personal and professional development of the person you are feeding back to
  • Offered and requested
    “I’d like to provide you with some feedback please – is that okay?”
    “I’d like to ask for your feedback please – is that okay?”
  • Consider feedback as a “gift” that you are giving to someone – it is an opportunity for them to improve

Received as data – thank the person giving you the feedback. It is now your choice what you do with this data.

About the author

By Lindsay Taylor, Director Your Excellency Ltd

Related Posts