How to Offer Constructive Criticism

Here’s something I learned from my recent meeting with a church consultant—nothing that he taught me, but some things that I perceived in the way he handled the meeting with me.

One of the most important things a person in leadership can learn is how to offer constructive criticism to an employee or coworker or even a boss, but this is even more important a skill for spiritual leaders. Spiritual issues are touchy and personal, and they touch on the very core of a person’s character. Therefore, offering someone criticism about spiritual matters is a very difficult thing to do. This consultant did an excellent job with me, and so I’m sharing the process here for you as well as for my own future reference.

How to Offer Constructive Criticism

  • Describe the general source of the critique. I did interviews with 40 people and at least 15 people mentioned a specific complaint.
  • Describe the specific complaint without generalizations. They said you wouldn’t do visitation.
  • Ask for feedback from the listener. Where do you think that idea came from?
  • Give a specific context, a specific example, and name a specific person whom the listener trusts. [name] said that when [event] you [action].
  • Interact with the listener again on that point.
  • Describe a specific new behavior to employ from the perspective of that person. People need the physical contact and your actual presence to know you care.
  • If necessary, give one example of how the new behavior makes a difference. When [person] faced [a similar situation] [action] and the end result was [result].

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