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How to Criticize and Find Fault

by Jayden Sheeman

Few things in life are as easy as criticizing someone else.  Few things in life make as many enemies.

People make so many mistakes.  Stupid mistakes even.  Mistakes only the dumbest could make. 

And you and me, smart as we are, simply love to point it out.  It's so obvious to us.  And we love to tell them how insanely stupid they were, and what they should have done. 

Some will tell you that it's best not to criticize altogether.  Maybe it's best to leave the peace intact.

Others will mention the old cliche, "If you can't say anything good, don't say anything at all!". 

But, where's the fun in that?  And sometimes there may be situations when unfortunately you have to critisize someone, otherwise you yourself will just not be happy with something. Maybe you are their boss in the workplace and have to call attention to their mistakes and critique their work.  Maybe they broke the rules.  You have to enforce the rules and just let them know about their mistake.  

How do you do it without making an enemy of your victim? How do you do it without feeling horrible yourself?

Thank goodness for the work of Dale Carnegie, who brought us such wonderful classics as "How To Win Friends And Influence People".  

Dale Carnegie brings us these two bits of advice to handle these sorts of situations, whichever one will be appropriate for the occasion: 

1.  Talk/Think about your own mistakes first

Say you are another person's boss at work and you have to call attention to their mistake.  Are you criticizing someone much younger than you?  How did you become so smart as to know what they are doing is completely wrong?  Is it because you made the exact same mistakes when you were their age and have since gotten much more experience?  This can work to your advantage. 

Tell them about how you made the same mistakes, so they don't feel like you think they are especially stupid for doing wrong what they're doing wrong.  They should still get the message anyway that you aren't happy with what they are doing, but that it's easy for them to correct it and it won't be held against them.   

2.  Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly 

Did somebody do something that's not suitable for what it was intended for?  Then praise it for what it is suited for, in an honest, serious tone - not mockingly.  They'll get the message that they didn't do it right for what was intended, but not necessarily see it as a direct attack on their work and actions, or feel that they are accused of being incapable of doing any good work or doing things right.

Is somebody breaking the rules?  How do you point out that mistake of theirs indirectly?

Dale Carnegie mentions an example of a store owner seeing a customer waiting at a counter, but the sales people not even noticing because they are chatting and laughing among themselves. 

Instead of making a scene, the store owner slipped behind the counter himself and waited on the customer, then handed the purchase to the sales people to be wrapped. 

These simple actions called attention indirectly but effectively to the salespeople's mistake  - if the store owner has to wait on customers himself, why have any salespeople there? 

There was no ugly confrontations but the message was clear - the salespeople were just sacrificing their own job security by being useless.  

So the next time you have to point out people's mistakes, see how clear you can put it by pointing to the mistake indirectly, or how you can correct their mistake by talking about your own mistakes first


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