Constructive Criticism vs Constructive Feedback

Constructive Criticism vs Constructive Feedback

Constructive Criticism vs Constructive Feedback
If I had to choose one term to discuss that sets my teeth on edge, it would have to be constructive criticism!

Can someone please explain to me what is constructive about criticism? According to, one definition of:

  • Constructive is, ‘Having or intended to have a useful or beneficial purpose.’
  • Criticism is, ‘The expression of disapproval of someone or something on the basis of perceived faults or mistakes.’

When put together, aren’t those two words — constructive criticism — an oxymoron? (Or am I being a moron?) Regardless of my moronic status, nobody likes being criticised, myself included.

When I hear the words ‘constructive criticism’, I automatically think that I’m about to be attacked and need to be on the defensive. However, when I hear the words ‘constructive feedback’, I don’t feel like I’m about to be attacked at all. In fact, I feel that someone is going to help me to better myself in some way.

Constructive feedback can be used as a basis for improvement. For example, someone finds something I’ve written that isn’t right, for whatever reason. I’m only human, so it does happen! They let me know what was wrong and how it could be improved. That’s constructive feedback. That’s what my editor does when she feels there is something I can reword or improve on. If, on the other hand, I was only told me what was wrong — think along the lines of ‘your grammar on page 12 is atrocious’ — and not why it’s wrong or how it could be improved, that’s (un)constructive criticism.

I recently came across an online two-part article that discussed criticism vs. feedback. According to the article, apparently it all started in our childhood, when our parents constantly criticised us. We would have felt uncomfortable and possibly scared, to the point that we would have imagined being abandoned! I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say that, but possibly that’s where my — and many other peoples — dislike of criticism started. Part two of the article discusses negative feedback and how another person’s behaviour may have adversely affected you, and then goes on to point out the distinctions between criticism and feedback. The first three points all had variations of the word ‘negative’ associated with criticism. I think that says it all!

You can read Parts One and Two of Leon F Seltzer’s review on Psychology today’s website:
Criticism vs. Feedback–Which One Wins, Hands-Down? (Part 1)
Criticism vs. Feedback–Which One Wins, Hands-Down? (Part 2)

To sum it up, in ten words or less, feedback is much more agreeable than criticism.

If you’d like to provide some constructive feedback on this issue, please leave a comment. Any constructive criticism that is left will be taken to with a chainsaw, put through a mulcher, and deposited in the bin!

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