How can you prevent nonchalant behavior

Destructive criticism: this is how you always react correctly

Criticism is essential. To learn from mistakes. Especially if they would otherwise have gone unnoticed. But as is so often the case here, too: there is constructive criticism - and there is destructive criticism. The sound alone often makes the difference. Negative feedback is not always welcome. But everyone instinctively senses whether the boss, colleague or customer is simply trying to let off steam, take revenge and harm, or ventilate frustration. Or whether the criticism - as painful as it is - is essentially benevolent and targeted. Regardless of the reasons, we will show you here how you can and should react to destructive criticism - even constructively ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

What is destructive criticism?

Criticism - as indisputable as its usefulness is - is rarely pleasant. No matter how sensitive and elegant the feedback is, those who are criticized rarely feel better afterwards. What remains is the recognition of having made a mistake or not having fulfilled expectations. And now there is the receipt for it ...

But feedback is part of life. To the job anyway. Criticism - positive as well as negative - is an essential prerequisite for growth and personal development. Without the feedback we would have little chance of learning from our mistakes. And it doesn't even have to be a mistake: Criticism can also show how things can be improved. Motto: "Your path is not bad, but it would be smarter that way ..." This is how you benefit from the previous mistakes of others and their experiences.

But this is exactly where the difference between constructive and destructive criticism lies:

  • Constructive criticism not only wants to report errors, but always tries to find the best possible solution. Constructive criticism is essentially respectful and beneficial, shows alternatives and endeavors to make relevant suggestions for improvement.
  • Destructive criticism on the other hand wants to attack, harm, put down. In its essence, it is neither relevant nor benevolent or leading. Rather, it is a slap in the face of the criticized. You should hit this and hurt feelings. The more the better.

It goes without saying that the second variant will neither have a learning effect nor improve the relationship. Those who are criticized destructively feel - rightly - badly treated, insecure and disoriented. So some then struggle with considerable self-doubt - about their abilities or their perception. Not infrequently it was even intended. Common!

Circumstances: This is how you recognize destructive criticism

In fact, destructive criticism can be seen not only in terms of content, but also in a few telltale traits.

Destructive criticism is mostly ...

  • personally. Destructive criticism is usually aimed directly at a person. The aim is not to criticize a behavior or to avoid mistakes in the future, but to attack the addressee personally and make it bad.
  • hurtful. As a result, destructive criticism is perceived as extremely hurtful. This is often reinforced by a correspondingly rough, insulting and degrading choice of words.
  • unfounded. Constructive criticism is not only appropriate, but focuses on specific triggers. Destructive criticism, on the other hand, is based on generalizations, blanket judgments and is accordingly unfounded. It often comes "out of nowhere" and hits the recipient unprepared.
  • generally. It is precisely the destructive form of criticism that is very generalized. "Everyone" sees it that way; "Everyone" knows that; “You” do it this way and that ... A one-time mistake quickly gets the stamp of a serious, chronic character problem.
  • exaggerated. Usually there are small and big points of criticism. Not with the destructive criticism: here everything is a bit bigger, more galactic, more epic. The mistake becomes an unforgivable disaster, a cosmic catastrophe. Even minor details can be enough to trigger fundamental discussions.

The biggest difference between constructive and destructive criticism, however, the underlying intention of the critic remains. Destructive critics do not want to improve anything, but - the name says it all - to destroy. People (bosses as well as colleagues) usually resort to destructive criticism when they lack or run out of factual arguments if they have a contrary opinion. When they steal something from their counterpart or when they want revenge.

The only catch - and it is mostly overlooked by the critics: You don't look good yourself. Sovereignty and size looks different. Even more: anyone who uses such methods obviously needs it. How pathetic!

Warning, destructive: This is not how criticism should look like

Criticizing has to be learned. Not everyone is equally good at it. That goes for both friends and family members. But also for colleagues and unfortunately also for many superiors. Their professional position brings with them the need to give regular feedback. But that does not mean that this is also their strength.

Words and formulations creep in regularlythat turn what is actually a constructive criticism into the opposite. To prevent this from happening to you, we have collected a few terms and sentences that you should delete from your review. The danger of drifting into the destructive is too great:

  • "Always" or "Never"
    Such generalizations are typical of destructive criticism and thus strong signal words or stimulus words in the literal sense of the word. So always stay specific if you want to criticize. Refer to evidence and credible examples. So the recipient can understand what you mean. Effect: Your criticism appears more well-founded, more honest and is better received.
  • You can't be serious, can you?
    When something really goes wrong, a sentence like this can slip off your lips. However, it has as much to do with meaningful criticism as marching music does with cheerfulness. Of course, this is a purely rhetorical question that does not want to suggest anything other than that your counterpart is incompetent. So a pure insult.
  • Are you proud of yourself?
    That sounds harmless. But it is not once the emphasis becomes ironic. In fact, the question becomes a blatant accusation. Behind this is the statement: “You screwed up and think that's great too? Shame on you! ”With rhetoric like this, one immediately leaves the ground for constructive criticism. Even more: you increase yourself and degrade your counterpart to a dumb one who is questioned like a small child. Nobody is proud of their mistakes. So what's the question ?!
  • What were you thinking?
    This is also a rhetorical pseudo-question. Of course, the other person thought something - unfortunately it was just wrong or didn't work out. Happens. If you are really interested in analysis and root cause research, ask: "What were the reasons for this in your opinion?" Or: "What would you do differently in the future?"
  • But you can't do anything either!
    Several mistakes at once: First of all, this is a blanket judgment and an inadmissible generalization (“nothing at all”). Furthermore, the statement is a personal attack that denies the recipient any (professional) qualifications.

This is the right way to respond to destructive criticism

Destructive criticism really has no place in the professional environment. A company that strives to create a good working atmosphere should pay attention to the culture of criticism and how criticism is expressed. Of course, there are also very different ways in which employees react to criticism (see graphic):

To do this, however, you first have to make a distinction again, which - wrongly - is often not made: the one between positive and negative criticism ...

  • Positive criticism Most people do not perceive it as criticism because it is positive is. Pat on the back, praise, recognition - all of these are also forms of criticism, in the sense of “assessing” a work or performance. The verdict is only positive here. However, this can also become destructive - for example, if the appreciation is so succinct that it already seems worthless again or devalues ​​itself. The best example: If someone has sacrificed themselves for the company for 20 years, then they quit and are fobbed off with a hollow “Thank you for your long-term loyalty”. Well thank you!
  • Negative review again, it does not have to be automatically destructive. It is true that there is reprimand, reprimand, and criticism. This can (and should) always be done constructively. Motto: The feedback must complain about a negative issue, but we will find a solution together and on an equal footing.

Whether criticism is positive or negative does not initially say anything about whether it is also constructive or destructive (meant). We are therefore all the more interested in how to deal with destructive criticism, especially when one is confronted with it - rightly or wrongly.

Basically: Even if she almost always attacks personally - please do not take destructive criticism personally! It's difficult, hurts, annoyed. We know. But it is precisely with this emotional reaction that you give the (destructive) critic what he wanted - and only add fuel to his fire. Ultimately, one can only train not to react immediately to personal attacks and, above all, not to react personally. Make it clear to yourself that your counterpart is actually only coming out as a poor sausage who needs such antics. A sandpit soul that she is currently trying to pull down to her level. Do you really want to go along with this? Just.

There are also other options for responding to destructive criticism. Even a few constructive ways - without making it unnecessarily difficult or wasting energy. For example this ...

  1. Just ignore it

    The simplest option is also the most effective: Save yourself the reaction and nonchalantly ignore the destructive criticism. Rather, focus on the really important things in life and on positive people. This tip is especially valid on social media, on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter or Instagram: “Don't feed the trolls!” Block haters, delete notorious bad guys, ignore stupid comments. The art is to resist the impulse to justify yourself, especially when you have been personally hurt. It helps a lot not to overestimate the opinion of others and saves life.

  2. Don't take it personally

    Destructive criticism is designed to hurt you personally. And that's exactly what you shouldn't allow the outrageous critic to do. Instead, ask yourself why the critic is trying to attack you personally. Is it a jealous colleague who just wants to polish up his scratched ego? The sooner you see through the tactics, the easier it is to let yourself be unaffected and unaffected by it. Instead, use the opportunity to train your intellectual independence and mental strength.

  3. Don't hit back

    The first impulse is often to get back at the other person and to engage in an exchange of blows. Have fun with the insult ping-pong afterwards! Fighting back is no good - unless you want the escalation and have time for such nonsense. Instead, you should rather demonstrate sovereignty - for example with humor: “You really are the last!” - “That's right, the best always comes at the end.” Those who react in such a quick-witted manner take every wind out of the other's sails. Ignoring an insult, on the other hand, actually proves greatness.

  4. Don't just agree

    The more destructive the criticism, the greater the likelihood that many of the aspects raised are wrong or at least completely exaggerated. It is not only your right, but also an effective strategy to address these wrong points and say “no” to them. Clearly contradict and ask: “How did you come up with this? What is your assertion based on? ”Now at the latest the attacker is under pressure to justify himself. And if there is only more hot air, its credibility is gone. That being said, you shouldn't just put up with the destructive criticism.

  5. Save yourself a defense

    You don't want to and don't have to put up with everything. At the same time, it is of little use if you always justify yourself or explain yourself. This leads to a pure spiral of wear and tear. You remember: the other person's destructive criticism is not at all about understanding your behavior or achieving improvement. Nor is he or she interested in your motives. Trying to defend yourself will only end up delivering more ammo. The better way: Don't go into the inconsistencies and reinforce them through repetition, but switch back to the factual level - by asking questions (see above) or asking: "Please let us remain factual!"

  6. Question yourself

    The point is harder: If you have been hit by the destructive criticism, it may also be because there is a core of truth in it. That in no way justifies the destructive tone, the manner of criticism. But their factual content is likely. You should therefore always use every criticism for self-reflection and try to draw something positive for yourself from the feedback. Break the criticism down into its pieces and see what you can learn from. On the other hand, please continue to ignore personal insults.

  7. Thank you for the criticism

    Admittedly, this is now Masterclass level. You are being attacked irresponsibly and personally - and you also say “thank you” to it. Wow! It is precisely because this reaction is so unusual that it works: the critic wants to harm you and make you feel bad. Show the exact opposite and say thank you for it, it deprives him of any ground. Of course, you don't even think about taking hatred seriously for a second. Nor are you grateful for any insults. But the gratitude alone leaves 99 percent of all destructive critics puzzled.

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[Photo credit: Jiw Ingka by Shutterstock.com]
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February 16, 2021Author: Jochen Mai

Jochen Mai is the founder and editor-in-chief of the career bible. The author of several books lectures at the TH Köln and is a sought-after keynote speaker, coach and consultant.

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