HomeMotivationConstructive Criticism vs. Criticism: Understanding the Difference

Constructive Criticism vs. Criticism: Understanding the Difference

Is someone you know always trying to put you down when you make a mistake? You’re not alone. It can be emotionally exhausting and a source of low self-esteem, self-doubt, anger, hurt and unnecessary stress.

Even if you have high self-confidence, destructive criticism can still tear you down. But every criticism is not meant to hurt you or bring you down. And that’s where constructive criticism comes in.

Keep reading to discover the differences between constructive criticism vs. criticism to help you be more receptive to criticism meant to help you improve. It will also help you identify destructive criticism and give tips on dealing with it, so it doesn’t tear you down.

What Is Constructive Criticism?

Constructive criticism is the feedback that comes from a place of honesty and pure intent, and its purpose is to build, improve, correct, encourage, advise, and motivate. Constructive criticism applies to all areas of our lives, careers, relationships, parenting, leadership, etc.

What Is Destructive Criticism?

Simply put, destructive criticism is the kind of feedback that brings you down. Its purpose is to discourage, destroy, and invalidate. It can be passive-aggressive and cause a lot of emotional turmoil on the recipient’s side.

Constructive Criticism vs. Criticism: Understanding the Differences

There are significant differences between constructive criticism and criticism, and telling them apart is relatively easy. So, let’s dive into some standard metrics you can use to differentiate between constructive criticism vs. criticism.

Delivery of the Feedback

Delivery of feedback is perhaps the most significant difference when examining constructive criticism vs. criticism. Remember, there’s always a better way of saying something. When someone offers you constructive feedback, the comments are polite, respectful, and well-formulated. And the tone of delivery is positive, kind, encouraging, and motivational.

Destructive criticism is the complete opposite. The comments are vague and rude, and the tone of delivery is negative, harsh, mean, and angry.


Constructive criticism comes from a place of honesty and pure concern. The intent is to help the recipient grow, improve and correct their mistakes. These critics are people who really care about you and want to see you succeed.

Unlike constructive criticism, the intention of destructive criticism is not to help someone correct their mistakes or grow. Instead, it often comes from a place of malice and spite. The critic may want to hurt, manipulate, bring you down or even amplify the problem.

Reason and Logic

Constructive criticism is well-structured and based on reason and logic. You can easily see the other person’s point of view and agree with what they are saying. On the other hand, destructive criticism is not based on logic and reason. It is also not well-structured and generally doesn’t make sense. It’s tough to resonate with the critic’s point of view because it just doesn’t add up.

Reference to the Past

Constructive criticism rarely makes references to the past. The critic’s focus is on the present and the situation at hand. However, when past connections are made, they are painted in good light. And they are well-discussed, so you can see how relevant they are to the present situation.

Destructive criticism makes references to your past mistakes a lot. This is because the critic is hell-bent on proving a point or being right rather than helping you improve.

The Person Delivering the Criticism

The character and nature of the person criticizing you also play a significant role in constructive criticism vs. criticism. Critics giving you constructive feedback are often honest individuals with your best interests at heart. They know how to provide input respectfully, even if it is negative.

People who give destructive criticism are the complete opposite. And they do so for various reasons. One, they might not be happy with their own performance— so they use nitpicking as a coping mechanism and a way to bring you down to their level.

Secondly, some people do it because they are immature or because it’s just a bad habit that they have developed. For all you know, the habit might be passed down from a highly critical guardian, parent, boss, coach, guardian, or teacher.

So, they are so used to receiving such poor treatment that they think it’s normal to do it to others. Sometimes, they might be dealing with a big issue, and the feedback they give you is just a reflection of what they are going through.

Regardless, you must realize that it’s not really about you – it’s them.

Focus Topic

The main focus of constructive criticism is the action, not the individual who did it. The critic rebukes the activity or the behavior and not the individual.

On the other hand, destructive criticism mainly focuses on the individual rather than the action or the behavior. The critics are more focused on bringing the person down that they even forget to address the activity or the behavior.

How to Be More Receptive of Constructive Criticism

You must be receptive to constructive criticism because it plays a significant role in your growth. Being criticized can hurt our pride, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen. So, here are a few tips to help you be more receptive to positive feedback.

Listen to the person well, and don’t jump to conclusions quickly. The hardest part of any criticism is listening until the end, especially if the feedback is negative. It is easy to shut down the critic because you don’t want your feelings hurt.

Don’t let your feelings get ahead of you. Be emotionally intelligent, and don’t respond defensively. That might just show that you’re ignorant and closed-minded. You don’t have to like the criticism – most people don’t – but at least respond responsibly.

If you can’t tell whether the feedback you’re receiving is fair, then employ the third eye. Run your work through a trusted friend or colleague and listen to what they say.

Don’t take it personally because constructive criticism is not about you. Instead, it is about your actions.

Thank the person for the feedback. And in the future, be sure to inform them how their point of view impacted your life.

Constructive Criticism vs. Criticism

How to Deal With Destructive Criticism

Receiving destructive criticism is relatively common, and you can’t avoid it. So, here’s how to deal with it so it doesn’t tear you down.

Determine if There’s Some Truth in It

An examination is the first step in dealing with any form of criticism, whether constructive or destructive. Regardless of how the feedback was delivered, there might be some truth to it. The best way to know for sure is by analyzing the logic of the input. Does it make sense? Another way is to have a colleague or a friend run through your work and ask them what they think.

Stay Calm and Remain Respectful

If someone throws deconstructive criticism at you, it’s very easy to let your emotions get in the way. But you must be the bigger person by remaining calm and respectful.

Have a Heart-to-Heart With the Critic

Some critics who leave hurtful and ignorant feedback might do so without realizing it. So, have a heart-to-heart with them and let them know their feedback delivery is cruel and insensitive.

Also, lay down healthy boundaries and discuss how you can constructively criticize each other without being rude and arrogant. You will be surprised by what you can accomplish by having a conversation.

Don’t Take It Personally

This is perhaps the most crucial part of dealing with destructive criticism. When you let it define who you are, then you’ll get hurt.

How to Give Constructive Criticism

Often, it’s easier to focus on other people’s mistakes and overlook our own. That means you must also learn how to give others constructive criticism should the need arise. Fortunately, offering constructive criticism is relatively easy. In fact, you can achieve that in a few simple steps:

Start by Talking About Their Gifts

First, applaud them for their gifts. Assure them that you believe in their capabilities and are happy with what they are doing right. In other words, make them feel recognized for their good deeds.

Point Out Your Own Mistakes

It’s easy to overlook our mistakes. But when giving constructive criticism, you must let the other person know you’re not perfect. That way, they can relate to you and take you seriously.

Request for Permission to Be Direct

Nothing is as uncomfortable as uncalled-for feedback and criticism. So, it’s prudent that you ask for permission before you proceed. Don’t assume that everyone is receptive to constructive feedback. If the recipient says no, that’s okay. You can always schedule the talk for another day.

Address the Issue

You must address the issue at hand entirely. Give details about what’s wrong and why you think it is; don’t be vague about it.

Provide a Solution

Raising concerns without providing solutions and directions is noise. Give them concrete suggestions on what they can do to improve, and tell them why they should trust your guidance. At this point, you can reference your past mistakes and the lessons you learned. And don’t forget to mention how these past occurrences relate to the current problem.

Listen to Their Response

Some people are not receptive to criticism, no matter how well you frame it. But others will receive it well and appreciate it. You’re not responsible for their reception of the feedback and whether they decide to implement it in their life. However, it’s good to ask them what they think about your input and listen to what they say.

Follow Up

After the conversation, follow up and see how they deal with the problem. If it’s hard on their part, be sure to provide more assistance, direction, or resources.

Criticism Can Break or Make Someone

Criticism is an essential part of our growth. But how it is delivered can make or break us if we let it.

If you have experienced destructive criticism, remember it is not about you but rather about the person criticizing. Don’t take it personally. And if you know that you’re doing the right thing, shrug it off and let it go. Believe in your abilities, and don’t let them get to you or ruin your self-confidence.

But also, be careful, so you don’t mistake constructive criticism for hate or a personal attack. Constructive criticism can help you improve in different aspects of life and help you correct your mistakes. It also provides a way of looking at things from a different angle.

Remember, you don’t have to like the feedback provided. You just have to respond to it maturely and try to see the other person’s perspective.

Regardless, we hope that you now understand the difference between constructive criticism and criticism and can handle each without letting it tear you down.


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