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· Can I give you some constructive criticism?
If you research rules for giving feedback, you’ll often be told that this question is ideal for asking permission to provide feedback, because, supposedly, it puts control of the feedback into the hands of the recipient. There is some truth to this, but the advice assumes that both you and the other person understand the “rules of feedback”. That’s often not the case.
This phrase is deadly deceptive, as is the advice surrounding it, because it doesn’t take into account the connotative meaning of this phrase, or in simpler terms, the emotional reactions of people who have experience with this type of question. For many, “constructive criticism” is not so constructive, and it IS their perceptions that determine if this will work or not.
When you use the phrase “constructive feedback” the person you are talking to knows that what is to follow is basically a ‘kick upside the head”, and that you are NOT going to be providing praise or a compliment. Or that if you DO praise, it will be coupled with criticism.
They also know that no matter what they say — yes or no — you’re probably going to tell them anyway.
The problem part is “constructive criticism”, which while technically possible, is interpreted as an oxymoron, two words that contradict each other.
Besides, most people’s experience is that the criticism is not going to be constructive at all.
Make It Better:
First, ban “constructive criticism” from your vocabulary. Nobody buys it. The word “feedback” is better. Not perfect, but better.
If you have something to say — some form of feedback or suggestion for behavior change, there’s better language to use:
· Can I make a suggestion?
· Would you like to hear how I would handle that situation?
· I have some ideas about how we could communicate more effectively if you’d like to hear them.
· I have some feedback on I’d be glad to share that might help you achieve your goals more effectively. Would you like to hear it?