We all know about criticism and the damage it can do to us – to our confidence and self-esteem. But what is criticism and how is it different to feedback? The simplest way to tell the difference is to consider who benefits from the comments. Are they for the benefit of the giver or the receiver? Feedback is for the benefit of the receiver. Its purpose is to help them grow and develop, and reinforce positive behaviour or actions. Feedback provides help and support, and focuses on how to learn from a situation in order to move forward.

Criticism, on the other hand, benefits the giver. In most cases, it is done to make the giver feel in some way superior to the receiver. Often negative and judgmental, it is also used to apportion blame and to offload negative feelings. It tends to be subjective rather than objective and it is usually destructive. It is most likely to make the recipient feel defensive, angry or hurt – emotions which stifle learning and growth.

Next time you run a review meeting with team members, quickly check with yourself whether you are about to criticise or give helpful feedback.

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