Constructive criticism?

Being critical © Kaarsten |

I’ve been a big fan of Drs. John and Julie Gottman ever since reading The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. So, when I saw a tweet that I did not agree with, it got my attention.

@GottmanInst: There is no such thing as constructive criticism. All criticism is painful. Criticism doesn’t make a relationship better.

After I thought about it, I realised I actually do agree with that, and the problem was how I was defining things. I tend to think of criticism in terms of analysing the good and bad of something. When I looked at a couple of dictionaries, I saw that the most common definition was something like “The act of criticizing,especially adversely.” With that as the meaning, then I would agree – all criticism is painful, and “constructive criticism” makes about as much sense as “constructive abuse” would.

Yes, there is a place for letting our bride know we think she has done something wrong, or that she could improve on something. The question is this; can you do it in a loving way? Can you point out the problem without pointing a finger? If you cannot, maybe you need to work on at before you do any more pointing!

Image Credit: © Kaarsten |

9 Comments on “Constructive criticism?

  1. I found this principle to work in my relationship especially with my wife and boys, but also in all other relationships. I have begun to teach this principle in church discipline, in leadership development, and in developing excellence in professionalism. I call it the Hamburger Rule; First, praise the person for one of their good points (bread), then in a gentle way, provide the criticism (the hamburg), and close the conversation by praising them for another of their good points. It really does work and keeps the person from immediately becoming defensive.

  2. Proverbs 3: 3 (NIrV) Don’t let love and truth ever leave you. Tie them around your neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart.

  3. I think you are destroying a very good word in order to make friends. Yes, people will love you if you promise not to criticize (try to keep that promise), but is it really constructive.

    The Bible seems very clear on this subject, especially in the proverbs.

    If you ignore criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace;
    if you accept correction, you will be honored. Proverbs 13:18 (NLT)

    This translation actually uses the word criticism, but the Proverbs in any transalation says the same things over and over again. Those who ignore criticism and dicipline are fools, and in the end will paying for their foolishness.

    Just because we live in a society that rejects criticism as being outrightly wrong, doesn’t mean we should. In truth, criticism doesn’t even imply that someone is at fault. It is simply a value judgement. We should be embraceing criticism as the right way in an age of “fools”.

    • @Take Two – Initially I was going to argue the point. Trust me, I don’t back off just to make friends! The I checked a few dictionaries and realised that I was not defining that word the way most do.

      My understanding of the word is as your’s – that it’s not necessarily negative or blaming. However it seems the meaning of the word has sifted to something else, and I figure I should work with that.

      Correction is a good word, as is feedback (or constructive feedback). Those, I think, cover what you are saying, but do not inject the problem with the new default meaning of the work “criticism”.

      • I agree with the post. It is not that we shouldn’t take in and heed criticism when it comes, but we should not be giving our brides critisism. Does Christ give the church critisism? No, he gives grace. I will go a step further and say

        Unsolicited advice is criticism.

        • Jeff, I normally will not publically disagree with anyone – I do that privately, but you made this statement that I can’t stand by on because it is not true. You said “Does Christ give the church critisism? No, he give grace.” The strongest example I can give of Christ’s direct criticism of the church is in Revelation Chapters 2 -3. Jesus priases the churchs and then rips most of them apart. When you study what Jesus says in the original language, it is even strong than how the English states it. The Apostle Paul was very critical of especially the church at Corinth. Criticism is necessary – how it is presented is of the greatest importance.

  4. It’s all in how you go about it. I do agree that the definition of the word criticism is a bit blurry and many of you seem to really add a negative connotation to it. I think that’s nonsense. Without constructive criticism we don’t grow. I think comparing criticism to abuse is just silly. Furthermore when you hold back to spare someones feelings you are really doing them an injustice. Just my two cents…

  5. Liny, I agree it is all about how you go about the communication. We must speak the truth with love.

  6. Pingback: Happy Hour | The Romantic Vineyard

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