Why constructive criticism is such an effective way to make a lasting impression.
A well-known tactic for asking a stranger online for a favor is to introduce yourself with a compliment to show that while they don't know you, you do know them. The small ego massage might also help you get the favor you're asking for.
However, the more popular that stranger, the more they're likely to have been on the receiving end of many such requests and the less impact those compliments are likely to have.
One standout tactic that almost never fails to get noticed is right on, putting it all on the table, constructive criticism.
Why I Love Constructive Criticism
1) Most people don't like giving criticism
Giving a compliment is easier to do and you rarely risk any kind of backlash.
On the face of it, criticizing – especially when it's a stranger – seems brash and rude as a way to connect with someone. Which is why it's much more impressive if you pull it off well (not as hard as you might think).
2) Most people don't like receiving criticism
And that doesn't even mean of the Internet troll kind.
The implication behind any criticism, constructive or destructive, is that your work isn't as good as it could be and the reflex (don't worry- for me too) is to get defensive. But why? Who says that everything you do must be perfect on the first try?
Once you can discern when the message is one you really should listen to, you'll grow much quicker.
3) Constructive criticism builds mental strength
Constant flattery is like being a baby to a new mom and dad; everything is so cute and it seems you can do no wrong. Yet, with the first parental strictness comes the first tantrum, until the baby starts to understand the changes in tone.
Similarly, the more criticism you hear, the more you'll be able to know when it's legitimate and when it's not, when to listen and when not to.
4) Constructive criticism has value that compliments can't have
Positive recognition is nice, whether it's to your face, in a LinkedIn recommendation or in a reference letter. The thing is, recognition often comes when something is complete and can't be improved, making you feel good and proud, sure.
Good constructive criticism, though, teaches you and in so doing, helps you now AND later, leading you to get more positive recognition with it than without it.
5) Constructive criticism is more likely to show off your skill than compliments
A good compliment shows that you were listening.
A good criticism shows that you were listening, analyzed what you heard, applied your skills and were able to communicate it back without leaving your audience feeling insulted. Unless they have a defensive reflex – and even then – they'll immediately know you're right, and will appreciate your message more than yet another ‘great post!' comment.
6) All criticism is a sign of success
Getting people to react means engaging them. Getting people to spend a half an hour or more in response means really engaging them, to the point where the results will be memorable.
7) Most people just don't do it
At the end of the day, most people just won't bother giving you any constructive criticism. If they think of it, they're more likely to file it anyway and move on, creating a personal brand-building opportunity for those few people who think it and act on it.
Question of the article
So now let's hear some- how could this post be even better? Tell me in the comments.
I published a version of this article on the terrific Personal Branding Blog.