The ‘Gift’ of Fault Finding – When to critique and when to shut up!
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The ‘Gift’ of Fault Finding – When to critique and when to shut up!

Being analytical in nature, I find myself naturally gifted at fault finding. Whether it is about the things I do, or what other people do, it can be seen as both a strength and a weakness. As a strength, I am able to identify issues that can potentially hinder success and thus, find ways to minimise and address them before they occur. As a weakness, my analytical nature may be interpreted as seeing the negatives or being pessimistic about a situation.

I often have disagreements with my wife regarding the issue of right and wrong. She believes that there is always a middle ground in any situation, whereas for me, if something isn’t right, well, then it’s wrong. I’m not saying that this is the correct way of thinking, but it is the way I find myself thinking.

So when I do find something wrong with a project or task I generally point it out. However, often upon reflection, I sometimes feel like it may have come across quite negative. This newly found self awareness has recently got me thinking “Am I critiquing or just being pessimistic?”

To help me know when to critique and when to shut up, I have put together 5 rules:

1. Provide a Solution

A critiquing person will highlight what is wrong and give suggestions on how to fix the problem, whilst a pessimistic person will just simply point out the issues.

2. Don’t Go On and On

A critiquing person will point out the problem and move on, whilst a pessimistic person will continue to go on and on about the problem even long after the issue has been resolved.

3. Be Helpful

A critiquing person will point out the problem with the intent of helping others succeed with their job, whilst a pessimistic person will do so to make the other person look bad and make themselves feel good.

4. Not Everything Is An Issue

A critiquing person will point out major obstacles that, if left unaddressed, may cause the project to fail, whilst a pessimistic person will point out everything wrong under the sun regardless of whether or not it has a major or any impact on the project.

5. Be Curious

A critiquing person will attempt to understand the whole situation leading to the issue, whilst a pessimistic person will simply react to the issue without questioning the situation.

Bare in mind that the tone in which you deliver your message also makes a difference, especially if things have gone wrong. A critiquing person will provide feedback in a positive, nurturing tone, enabling everyone to understand the situation and therefore learn and grow from their mistakes. It is not helpful to talk down to anyone in an attacking manner, which may lower their self esteem or force them to admit to a mistake.

We are often asked for our feedback and are encouraged to give our opinion to others. It is this very feedback that helps them improve. However, we sometimes forget that the impact of what we say, and how we say it, affects other people.

So, next time, before you give your opinion or feedback, ask yourself the question “am I critiquing or just being pessimistic?

By Mario Nguyen


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