Is Criticism the Best Way to Get a Person to Change?

Do you think that criticizing someone over and over is the way you get them to change? You know the “How many times have I told you…” syndrome. Sometimes we think with our children or spouses or other loved ones that if we keep on criticizing that somehow they will change.

In fact some parents, teachers or coaches think the best strategy is to shame someone into doing better by criticizing and using put downs, such as “That was stupid!” “You want to be a stupid person?”  “How dumb of you to think you could do it that way.” They will use put downs and insults to try to motivate.

Recently a quote grabbed my attention, “Harsh criticism does not consistently motivate or nurture most people. Change and growth comes through encouragement and increased self esteem.” Allyson Lewis “The 7 Minute Difference”

One time with one of my sons, a family member was very harsh with him because he got a “D” on a test. Later when just he and I were alone in his bedroom, I sat on the edge of his bed, “I know you want to do well in school. What do you think you could have done different to get a better grade?”

He propped up his head with his hand, “I think I could have studied more.”

I nodded, “Well, all I ask is that when you make a mistake, you learn from it and make an effort to do better next time.”

Sure enough next time around, he came in beaming to me, “I got a 94 on the test yesterday.”
I smiled, “Good for you! I knew you could do it!”

Think about this the next time you want to repeat a criticism. Is there some way instead that you could address the issue in a way that shows confidence in the person ability to do better?

Constructive criticism is healthy and we all need it but you will be more effective if you give the criticism in a way that retains the person’s dignity. For example, if they made a mistake you could say,”Maybe you didn’t mean to do it this way, let me show you a better way.” Or if someone does something you don’t like, you can say, “I know you like to be considerate, would you mind not doing that again?”

When you do need to give criticism, find a way to affirm the person first, then share the criticism. After you share the criticism, end the conversation in some way that lets them know you care about them and have their best interest at heart.

Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)

Have you ever been harsh in your criticism? How could you say things differently? Have you ever been the victim of harsh criticism? How could you turn the situation to your advantage and use it to learn? Share with us in the comments below.

I’d love to hear from you. Let me know how I can support you in resolving your relationship challenges.









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