A friend of mine moved across the country earlier this year. We were catching up over email the other day and, after the customary hello paragraph, he offered his opinion on my new site. His first words were, “I don’t like any of the copy. I don’t believe it.”
I was shocked and excited. Nobody had done this for me yet. And the feedback didn’t stop there. He went on for pages expressing his thoughts on everything. He was critical and honest. He actually wrote a second email to clarify a few points. At the end, he told me how uncomfortable it was to send it. He felt like a jerk. But he did it anyway.
Constructive criticism is inherently uncomfortable
When people ask for feedback, we need to be careful about how we answer. It’s easy to give the encouraging, “sure, looks good to me” or, “looks good, but ‘your’ should’ve been spelled ‘you’re’ in the third paragraph.” Although somewhat helpful, it’s usually not what the solicitor is asking for. Anyone who asks for your honest opinion wants it. And they deserve it. Nothing more, nothing less.
It’s time-consuming to give a thorough review and critique. It may require hours of our already-limited time. And it’s difficult to tell another human being that something they did isn’t good enough. But if you truly care about that person, you should be willing to tell them what you really think. We owe it to the people we care about at home and at work. They expect it from us.
If we don’t deliver, they lose out. Our fear of insulting, hurting, and rocking the boat gets in the way of helping someone else grow. We don’t have to be rude, but let’s not rob them of the opportunity to be greater, sooner.
It cuts both ways
On the other side of the equation, real criticism hurts. If we want the truth, we should expect it to shake us a little. Sincere, thoughtful criticism reveals the areas we need to work on. If it doesn’t, then was it really all that constructive?
People grow most in times of conflict or pain. So when you’re asked to give feedback, give it your best or politely decline. Don’t cheat them of that growth. And when you ask for feedback, be prepared. The good stuff will hurt for a few minutes. But then you can make real changes that get you closer to your goal.