Before you criticise someone…

Everyone has been criticised and everyone has criticised someone else, whether in front of them or behind their back. Sometimes it is necessary and other times it is disguised in the form of a joke. And of course there’s those critical remarks that fall in between. Sometimes people deserve to be criticised if they’ve somehow wronged you in the past. But there is a difference between constructive criticism and being mean; sometimes there might be disagreement over which of these is true in a particular circumstance, the criticiser thinking one and the criticised thinking another. It all comes down to communication and the thought processes that occur in the instance of criticising someone, whether it is in the spur of the moment or has been in the works for a while. Constructive criticism or criticism with bad intentions has consequences, and not all of them good. Here are some questions worth asking before criticising someone in any form:

What is my motive?

Am I criticising this person for their benefit: to improve themselves, their interaction with other people, or their perceptions of the world? Am I telling this joke because deep down I actually mean what I’m saying and want to hurt this person? Am I telling this joke to make myself look better even though it is at the expense of someone else?

Is what I am saying worth it?

After contemplating the first question, ask yourself: is it really necessary? Is it constructive? Will anything good come of saying this? Is there a possibility that this could backfire? For example, everyone likes someone who is good-humoured and someone who can laugh at themselves, but nobody likes a bully.

How will the other person take this?

What kind of person is this? Are they strong, or sensitive, or good-humoured?  Remember that your opinion on this person may only be based on assumptions; it is not always easy to know how a person will react.

How am I going to say this?

Do I need to be careful and particular? Should this be done alone, spontaneous or planned? Think about your answer to the previous question and re-evaluate accordingly.

If the person takes it the wrong way, am I and how will I fix it?

Sometimes people take jokes the wrong way. It is hard to tell how someone might react; on the one hand, you need to take responsibility for your actions and your words, but also think about the aforementioned questions to make sure that anything you do is with the best intentions and not something that can use against you. If you don’t care how the other person feels afterwards or whether they take the criticism on board, then maybe you should not criticise them at all.

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