Monday, October 29, 2012


Critique is necessary for growth.  There are so many kinds of critique, so many ways to present it, so many ways to receive it, and so many possible effects from it.  Critique is not inherently a bad thing, it’s just information.  It takes on a “bad” or “good” aspect in its substance, delivery, effectiveness, and many other factors.

In prior posts I’ve talked about how to deliver critique and how it’s bad to deliver it without taking it.  But there’s a lot more to cover…

I measure critique in six parts: Source, Honesty, Intensity, Frequency, Intention, and Effect:

SOURCE: Who does the critique comes from?
HONESTY: How is the critique is presented?
INTENSITY: What's the delivery style?
FREQUENCY: How often is the critique given?
INTENTION: What's the purpose of the critique?
EFFECT: How effective is the critique?  How does the critique define the critique-r?

SOURCE is a pretty simple concept, but can have a big impact.  Most of us get the majority of our critique from ourselves!  Valuable critique from someone you don't respect is often taken less to heart.  We're only human.  I find that the best way to deal with this situation is to remember the critique and think about it later when the person isn't around, to look at it more objectively.

HONESTY can be a real tricky thing when it comes to critique.  Someone may not be very comfortable just saying what they mean, and so you might get a somewhat confusing or obfuscated comment.  If you’re taking the trouble to give someone a comment, unless it’s someone who’s really sensitive, most people will probably respect you just being upfront about it.  If you’re on the other side of the critique and you don’t quite get what a person is getting at, then take the initiative and ask.

INTENSITY will often determine if someone listens to the critique.  If you come off as angry or frustrated during your critique (especially if you ARE angry or frustrated), it’s really easy for people to discount what you say.  On the other extreme, coming off too mellow or apologetic in your delivery totally undercuts what you’re trying to get across.

FREQUENCY is another simple concept.  Too much critique from any combination of sources is going to be information overload.  If one person is giving too many comments - unless it's the head instructor - it's eventually going to get ignored.  If a group of people are giving too many comments, to any one person, eventually that person stops being receptive and becomes defensive.  Be aware of the environment!  If you or other people are making a lot of critiques, prioritize what you say to only be the most important things - or maybe say nothing at all!

INTENTION is one of those things that can take some time to have an effect, but it really hard to fix once perception is set.  When you give critique, is it truly for the purpose of helping someone get better?  Some people come off as loving the sound of their own voice or using critique as a way to make them feel better about their own abilities.  Once people put you in a category like those, even the good stuff you say will be tremendously dampened.  And even though we should try to remember what I said above (in source), it doesn't mean it's always easy.

EFFECT is a mixed bag.  It looks at what sort of critiques you tend to give and how effective they are.  It looks at how you give critique compared to how you take it.  It looks at how you critique yourself to grow.

Does the critique work in the short-term?  In the long-term?  Are you adjusting what you say to someone/people over time to make it more effective?  If not, why not?

Say there are a dozen things you could critique after watching someone.  Are you picking something superficial, or something that irks you but is really minor compared to the other issues?  Like intention above, people tend to notice that sort of thing and stop expecting you to give any insightful feedback.  If the things you bring up are mostly minor issues, ask yourself if it’s really important to bring them up.

If you’re good at giving critique but don’t take it well, how do you expect people to listen to you?  If your critiques tend to focus on a specific area but you yourself have issues in that same area, why should people take you seriously?  For example, it could be talking about finer details in kata when you have trouble fixing your own, or talking about how people should be more energetic when you're not putting it out there yourself.


Finally, there’s one last aspect to all this.  How you conduct yourself outside of practice will have a big impact on how your critique is received during practice.  If you’re critical about things in general, it gets hard for people to separate actual critique from just your personality.

I realize I could be accused of being critical outside of practice - I mean I have a blog that's often critical about a lot of things!  But it's not how I act outside of, or even during practice.  If you’re negative about things in general, people will filter out a lot of your critique during practice.  On the flip side, if you’re always positive about things and are making a lot of complimentary critiques, they may not have a lot of weight.  Consider the impact that YOU have on your critique.

Critique does not take place in a vacuum.  Everything from the mood of the person to the issue being critiqued to the choice of words used gets factored in.  Sometimes even the best said, best intentioned critique can be the worst possible thing to say.

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