How to Give Constructive Criticism to Sensitive People

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You have probably experienced the gut-wrenching feeling of failure when criticized by someone in a position of power. It is difficult to imagine what the experience of shame and embarrassment would feel like on an every day basis. Understanding the ultra sensitive mind and approaching criticism with caution is vital to constructively advising someone of this personality type.

The E-Type

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According to Dr. Dennis O'Grady, half of us are Empathizer Communicators, or E-types, and the other half are Instigators, or I-types. E-types are much more sensitive than their counterparts in all categories of communication, especially when it comes to criticism. Developing an understanding and acceptance of these types of communicators is important to planning your approach. Think carefully about what you're going to say, and how you're going to say it, to avoid hurt feelings or resentment.

An Appropriate Atmosphere

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Regardless of your communicator type, finding out you are in need of advice in the hallway in front of a handful of co-workers can be embarrassing and demeaning. When you are preparing to deliver some constructive criticism to a sensitive person, choose your delivery location wisely. The more private the location, the better. Embarrassment can only worsen the effects of the already anxiety-provoking circumstance of being criticized.

Cautious Delivery

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As you're presenting the criticism, you should be clear and concise, while still considering the feelings of the recipient. Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D., writes in his article, "The Art of Constructive Criticism", that you should focus on requesting changes in the future, rather than pointing out negative actions that are taking place presently. "I am hoping that in the coming months we can increase your production." sounds much better than, "You're not producing enough."

Words of Encouragement

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The sensitive mind is a fragile one. Using caution when approaching a person who is prone to quickly take offense will ease the situation for both of you. Rather than vividly point out flaws, offer advice on how to improve or change results. Keep a positive attitude and show your appreciation for this person's hard work. If you have presented your concerns well and offered genuinely constructive criticism, the recipient will walk away feeling inspired and supported rather than cut down and demoralized.