Teen Space

Criticism: Offer it constructively

Teenage girls studying together with books and laptops. One girl is offering constructive criticism to the other
Photo: © Iakov Filimonov / 123RF Stock Photo


The 14th century recognized criticism purely in the literary perspective; something that offered an appraisal of art and literature. The 20th century saw it approaching pros and cons and identified it as a more logical and scientific activity. Such criticism was received gracefully. Currently, however, the 21st century is evidence to criticism being a loosely adopted method of articulating objection, expressing dissent and rejecting something outright with minimal compassion. Used meaningfully, criticism is an effective stimulus to generate personal growth and support improvement in performance. Nonetheless a tool is not effective unless used properly. The content, intent and recipient of criticism; all ought to be relevant to make the required impact. Criticism is effective if it matches these ground rules:



There’s no point in proving a point if at the end you don’t end up making your point! Criticism ought to be crisp and impactful. If it’s too long an explanation, people lose focus and fail to comprehend what they are being grilled for. The outcomes then are seldom positive because people don’t know what went wrong, hence they cannot set it right.

  • That presentation you made for the group project needs references (precise)
  • The research you do is pretty much vague, uninteresting and unacceptable (imprecise)

Issues get solved best when they aren’t muddled. Success is when the arrow hits the target; the remainder is obviously senseless jargon. When you arrange your words rightly, your criticism is presented effectively and then accepted gracefully. The content is always valid; the process of delivering it needs to be spot on to get the impact you want from it.


The rule of thumb in criticizing (friends, colleagues, parents, cousins) anybody, is ‘respecting the person’. More often than not criticism is thrown on character instead of the behaviour. If people are attacked for who they are instead of what they do, the desired change in their behaviour will never occur.

  • You’re my very good friend; I just wish you could be a little more punctual (respectful)
  • I don’t know why I even bother asking you to meet me you’re always late (disrespectful)

If you attack people on their character, they think they can’t change and see no option but to fight back and justify themselves. Don’t corner your loved ones and people who matter. When you do that, their unacceptable behaviour stays right there, and bitterness worsens your relationship. It’s a lose-lose situation when you don’t show respect.

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Dr Shefali Batra is a Psychiatrist and Mindfulness Coach. Connect with her on Instagram @drshefalibatra and read more about her work at drshefalibatra.com.

Dr Shefali Batra

Dr Shefali Batra is a Psychiatrist and Mindfulness Coach. Connect with her on Instagram @drshefalibatra and read more about her work at drshefalibatra.com.