As a new nurse manager, I remember facing two memorable moments. The first was a negative encounter with an executive nurse leader in the hallway after a meeting we had both attended. She criticized the way I had answered a question during the meeting. Her words were harsh, negative, and hurtful, making me feel incompetent and amateurish. The second moment was when a fellow nurse colleague approached me privately and asked if she could offer some advice. The advice turned out to be incredibly valuable, encouraging, and optimistic. While this advice did identify some areas for improvement, what stood out to me was my colleague’s belief in my abilities. These two unforgettable experiences were in stark contrast: one focused on criticism and negativity, while the other provided constructive feedback.
When it comes to improving ourselves, our skills, or our work, getting input from others is key. We often hear about criticism and feedback, but what’s the real difference between the two? In this blog, let’s dive into the world of criticism and feedback, understand what sets them apart, and discover how they can either bring us down or help us soar.
Criticism: The Downer Criticism has a bad reputation for a reason. It’s like a big red flag pointing out all the things we did wrong, without much guidance on how to fix them. Critics often have a knack for focusing on the negatives, ignoring any positives we might have. They come off as know-it-alls and can make us feel pretty lousy about ourselves. In short, criticism sucks the life out of us and stifles our creativity and growth.
Feedback: The Game Changer Now, here’s where things get interesting. Feedback is the opposite of criticism. It’s like a guiding light that helps us navigate our way to improvement. Instead of dwelling on the negatives, feedback acknowledges both our strengths and areas that need work. It’s constructive, practical, and provides actionable suggestions for growth. Helpful feedback empowers us, encourages us to reflect on our actions, and fuels our drive to learn and develop.
- Tone and Delivery: Criticism can be harsh and negative, while feedback is delivered in a respectful and helpful manner. Feedback feels more like a conversation rather than a lecture.
- Intent and Focus: Critics love pointing out faults and weaknesses, but feedback is all about highlighting strengths and offering ways to improve. It’s like having a personal cheerleader who also gives you some tips to up your game.
- Subjectivity vs. Objectivity: Critics let their personal biases and preferences influence their judgment, but feedback is rooted in objective observations and measurable outcomes. It’s based on clear criteria and expectations.
- Emotional Impact: Criticism can bring out our defensiveness and make us feel down, while feedback creates a safe space for reflection and growth. It helps us see our mistakes as lessons rather than failures.
To make feedback truly valuable, keep these tips in mind:
- Be specific and focused, addressing particular actions or behaviors.
- Offer a balanced view, recognizing strengths along with areas for improvement.
- Share feedback in a timely manner, so we can make necessary adjustments promptly.
- Foster a supportive and safe environment that encourages open, honest communication and trust.
- Engage in a dialogue, actively listen, and ensure everyone understands each other.
- Embrace a growth mindset, where improvement is the goal, not finding fault.
While criticism and feedback both involve evaluating our actions or work, they have vastly different effects. Criticism drags us down and doesn’t offer much help, while feedback uplifts us and provides guidance for growth.
The Human-Centered Leader understands when we embrace the art of giving and receiving feedback, we create an environment that nurtures our development and self-awareness, fuels our creativity, and helps us become the best versions of ourselves.
I don’t know what the intentions were of the leader who was critical and demoralizing, but I have realized, over time, that her criticism of me was more a reflection of her. The colleague who provided much appreciated feedback with kindness and respect, helped shape me as a relational leader. Let’s learn to choose feedback over criticism and soar to new heights. It Starts with You…