DIY Thinking 1.2: Do’sand Don’ts of Criticism

Criticism expresses judgement or disapproval of someone or of their actions. It usually gives rise to negative emotions and is often counter-productive. The emotional reaction can range from hurtful, through damaging, to destructive. 


When is criticism hurtful and when is it destructive? When does it not matter at all? Give examples.

Do’s and Don’ts of Criticism

  • Do know why you are criticising and what you want to achieve.
  • Don’t confuse criticism and feedback.  Criticism is almost always judgmental and, to some degree, threatening. The recipients should welcome feedback and it should be developmental.
  • Don’t attack the person. This includes their character, personality and value system. Rather give positive examples of what you want.
  • Create a trusting relationship. 
    It is easier to receive criticism from someone you trust. 
  • Do be careful how you phrase it. Practice sentences beforehand.
  • Do be specific.
  • Don’t be accusatory.
  • Don’t let the situation deteriorate into a general attack on the person.

Question: If criticism is so terrible, how do I tell someone they are not doing well without doing damage? I don’t want to destroy their motivation and self-esteem. After all, the reason I criticise someone is to help them identify their weaknesses and determine a course of action that will ‘improve’ them.


Criticism usually includes the pronoun ‘YOU’ as in “Bonnie, you are so lazy” or “John, you always do a half job”, or “Sipho, you never listen’” Try to rephrase to eliminate the accusatory YOU. 

If you want someone’s behaviour to change, don’t attack the person, rather concentrate on the behaviour.