The Art of Giving Constructive Criticism

Hello guys, in today’s article, I am going to discuss the art of giving constructive criticism. This is going to be one of the most important tools you need especially when you are in a working environment. Have you ever wanted to give constructive criticism, but couldn’t because you didn’t know how to properly convey your idea?

Let me teach you how to do it in 6 simple steps. Let’s hop in.

Why should we learn to give Constructive Criticism?

Constructive criticism is one of the best ways a person can improve. This gives us a new perspective and makes us see the things that we oversaw or didn’t even consider before. Constructive criticism is especially beneficial at work since it shows that your managers and peers care for you and wants to see you succeed.

Everyone makes mistakes. It is really normal to make mistakes in a working environment. What matters is how you are going to point it out. You can either just blame him which would make him feel bad or you could give him constructive criticism. If you wanna go with the second option, let me show you the way.

1. Use the PIP Sandwich

PIP stands for Positive-Improvement-Positive. This means that we are sandwiching our criticism between two positive comments.

So, first of all, you have to start your comment by focusing on your strengths. After that, provide your criticism and point out where he could improve. And you can finish by telling about what positive things he can expect if he acts upon the problem.

You may have seen people use this technique everywhere. For example, judges in reality shows use this technique all the time when commenting on auditions.

When we use this PIP sandwich to give our feedback, they understand that we are on their side. They would understand that we know what they did correctly and that we appreciate it. And they would also understand that you just want them to succeed by correcting their mistakes.

2. Focus on the situation, not the person

This is also one of the most important tips you should definitely consider using. If the person feels like that they are being accused, our criticism is more likely to be dismissed. This happens automatically because the victim feels like they are being targeted.

A simple example is that if someone says, “You look ugly”, we take it personally. But if someone says, “Those clothes don’t suit your body type”, we are more likely to focus on picking out different clothing. These simple things are quite valuable when we want to get our idea across without affecting them negatively.

Using passive voice also can be a great trick to get your idea across. When we use passive voice, we are less likely to mention a person’s name. So, the next time you are confronted with a situation where you have to give someone constructive criticism, try to stick to passive voice.

And also, explaining your side of the story is also a great technique to implement. This way the victim will realize the reason why you decided to speak up. You can tell him how this affected you and your work. The victim will feel guilty and will never repeat that same mistake again.

3. Be Specific

When you are trying to give your constructive criticism, try to be specific as possible. Because when you are specific, the victim is more likely to take action to fix it. When you say something vaguely, the victim won’t know what you really mean. He might even second guess himself about the things he did well. So, try to be specific. Make the process easier and actionable as possible for the victim.

For example, If you say, “Your coding style is bad”, the victim will question his programming knowledge and try to learn more. But he might never understand what you meant. If you specifically say, “You are adding comments properly. Read online resources on how to comment when coding”, he will go ahead and learn that.

4. Comment on what he can change

You have to choose your wording carefully when you are giving your criticism. You have to realize that there are things that are under the victim’s control and things that are out of his control. You need to make sure that you are focusing on and commenting on the issue that is under his control.

If you comment on something that he can’t change, he will keep thinking about it every day which will definitely mess up his workflow.

5. Give Recommendations if possible

When you are giving your constructive criticism, give some recommendations on how he could act upon it. But you should only give recommendations if you have a good enough understanding and experience. Don’t just give him some random recommendations you heard from the internet (but never tried yourself).

For example, if the victim lacks knowledge on some concept, you can recommend the courses, books or the YouTube videos you followed to get better at that concept.

6. Don’t Make Assumptions

This is one of the main things that you should avoid when giving constructive criticism. When you say the things out loud, there is no turning back. So, think twice and verify the sources. You need to have clear evidence to prove what you are going to talk about. This also connects with the point about being specific.

When you are talking about something, you need to be able to pinpoint the exact moment this incident took place. Don’t make your decisions on assumptions. First of all, verify the source and re-check with at least two more ways to verify for sure.


This ends the article. I hope you guys learn something valuable. If you did, drop a like and follow my blog. I’ll end the blog with a quote from an English poet called A. C. Benson.

People seldom refuse help, if one offers it in the right way.

A. C. Benson

Published by Thisura Thenuka

I am a passionate software engineering student. But cricket is my first love ❤

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