How To Criticize With Kindness (And Why You Should Never Publicly Criticize Anyone)

Why public criticism is rarely the loving option and how you can approach a conversation that actually brings you closer together

There was once a football great named Vince Lombardi who was not only an incredible football player, he also went on to become an extraordinary coach and eventually, an executive in the National Football League.

public criticism vince lombardi quote

One of the things Vince Lombardi famously said was, “Praise in public, criticize in private.”

As people who are committed to living our freest, fullest and most expansive lives, let’s consider why this advice from Vince is so powerful.

We both know how good it feels to be praised by others, and to give praise!

When your boss tells you you’ve done a great job on the project you’ve been working on, or a friend tells you how much your support means to them, this appreciation feels good!

You’ll probably even find a smile on your face and your heart swelling a little bit.

This doesn’t make you vain or self-absorbed – everyone loves to be appreciated and told they’re doing a great job at something by the people in their lives!

It also feels good to publicly acknowledge others for a job well done. When we share feedback that we can tell lifts another person’s spirit, we can’t help but feel uplifted ourselves.

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negative public criticism

It’s important to keep in mind that criticism is not necessarily negative in and of itself.

The word “criticism” actually comes from the Greek word kritikos – someone who is able to judge the value or quality or something.

We all have judgments and opinions, this is just part of the human experience.

When you go to see a movie, for example, you may think that the movie was great or that it wasn’t good at all. Both of these are forms of criticism.

What makes criticism positive or negative is largely the way in which it is shared.

So what do you do when you feel the need to criticize someone?

How can you give criticism in a positive, constructive way?

If you have a friend, family member or colleague who has done or said something you’d like to address with them, the first step to turning this criticism into constructive feedback is to speak privately with them about it.

Since most of us tend to feel defensive when we feel someone is criticizing us, speaking to someone privately about something that’s bothering you or not sitting well with you is essential.

You want the other person to feel as safe as possible as you enter into the conversation.

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public criticism clarification

Next, share your perspective of what occurred.

You can say, “Perhaps I’m not seeing the whole picture. But from my perspective, here’s what happened.” Share the facts.

Then, ask for clarification: “Is there anything I’m missing about what happened?”

Let the other person share what there is for them to share. This is a great question to ask, because there are times when things happen that are just a simple misunderstanding.

Next, share how what occurred affected you, for example: “You may not see this, you may not agree with this, but when this happened, here’s how I felt about it…” or “Here’s how it affected my ability to do my job…”

public criticism feedback

The final step is to offer your feedback.

You can say something like, “In future, I request…” and then let them know what you’d love to have happen in future. Then ask them if they’d be willing to accept your request.

When you offer constructive feedback in this way, in most cases, the person will be willing to give you what it is that you’re asking for, and the overall conversation will actually bring the two of you closer together!

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Categories: Mindset

Comments (7)

  • Rosemary Byrne
  • mattie G. Williams

    How do I start a conversation with a stranger when I am very shy

  • Debbie Ambrose

    How do you respond to a manager who is always criticizing people in a group or team meeting situation. It is embarrassing to the person and makes everyone uncomfortable.

  • Susan Sage

    How do I heal when a DVM caused a fatal pneumothorax in a cat diagnosed with asthma?


    That was some much needed advise on how to handle or give criticism.
    I am a new sales manager of a team that has been allowed to do their own thing despite the requests of our owner and yet nothing happen when guidelines are broken. I’ve been given the task to inspire them to do what is required of them. How can I build healthy professional boundaries that do not look like I’m now the bad guy, but build a successful team? My instinct is to implement a write up system and create consequences, but I’m not sure this is the right way to step into this role? Can you create a video on healthy leadership that creates growth in the work place. I would love to be able to share it with my boss? Or perhaps an inspiring clip on honoring your role as part of a team that I can share with the staff? Thank you!!!

  • Thank you so much for your great insightful, uplifting talk. That helped a lot. If you’re ever inspired to offer a video on increasing one’s self-confidence, one’s self-worth- that would be wonderful!
    Have a most fantastic day!

  • David R. Reed

    Thank you, Mary, and Team!

    I am pleased to see you take up this topic. It is truly vital to us all. I know as learning to “stop short” of impulses to criticize has greatly enhanced my relationships and enriched my friendships.

    Learning to first quietly reflect upon what I am feeling and asking myself why has led me to many helpful insights. This has in turn empowered my communications vastly. That is no exaggeration, simply my experience and how I feel about it. This more recent, newer behavior has become a powerful practice of patience, mindfulness and compassion for me. I love it and look forward every day to the many opportunities I have to practice this.

    Your spot-on article and associated video, etc. remind and reinforce for me the importance and power of what I have learned and continue to learn more about! It helps to keep me in the practice of being patient, mindful and compassionate.

    Much Thanks, David R. Reed

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