How to deliver fair criticism?


The best criticism doesn’t trap an employee or child in a dead end. It gives them an escape route.

When Mimi Sheraton was the respected and feared restaurant critic of The New York Times, she had the unfortunate habit of disliking many of her boss’s favourite restaurants. This put her esteemed and intimidating boss, executive editor A.M. Rosenthal, in an awkward position.

On the one hand, Sheraton was entitled to her views and it was important that she be perceived as unbiased and beyond arm-twisting by anyone. On the other hand, the socially minded Rosenthal still had to show his face at some of the targets of Sheraton’s vigorous prose.

Rosenthal’s solution was clever and speaks volumes about how to deliver fair criticism. He didn’t muzzle Sheraton. He couldn’t have done so and still kept her as a critic. Instead, he convinced her that if she was going to lambast an establishment, she could score more points if she felt sorry about doing it.

“Instead of writing, “The place is terrible,” Rosenthal suggested, “You could say, It’s too bad the place is terrible,’” Even the severest criticism often will be acceptable if you appear sympathetic.

Read more about A.M. Rosenthal’s articles here.

About Gintai_昇泰

I'm a Chinese Singaporean living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I write for pleasure. I also write mainly for my family and friends.
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9 Responses to How to deliver fair criticism?

  1. Lohcifer says:

    The delivery of criticism is one thing, but the receiving of criticism can be quite something else. Even sugar-coated as “constructive feedback” recipients usually react negatively, often rather illogically, not following the thread of the discussion, or pretend to change, then change cosmetically, for a short period of time before reverting back to old ways. Old habits die hard. Just think “PAP.”

    So if your first reaction is to lash back – pause and think, and stop yourself from taking that action. Remember those who criticize care about you, those who don’t simply keep quiet and stop further engagement with you. So even if someone is harsh and rude, thank them.

    Turn a positive into a negative. If someone thinks “you are blogging crap” you can read it as “I need to increase the variety of my posts and find new ways of looking at old things.”

    If someone says “You siow ah? I don’t understand what x has to do with y.”
    Ignore the first sentence, (don’t accuse him of name-calling even if it is true in this case), then say something like, “Thanks for giving me an opportunity to clarify that. I don’t think I made it as clear as I should have. What x has to do with y is … blah blah. Thanks for the great question!” Take away the emotion.

    Always be the better person. Remember: always BE the better person.

    All this takes time and a lot of effort of course, which is why I don’t allow comments on my blog. Besides, I blog for myself only. In addition, I am responsible for comments that appear on my blog and if they are deemed inappropriate by the authorities I have to answer for them. Life is too short for me to carry those kind of risks.


    • Thank your for your kind counsel. I have learnt some invaluable life lessons. I will try to absorb as much as you have given me here. One may read and understand but it takes lots of perseverance and tenacity to put them into practice. It’s like telling you how to ride and master the art of riding a performance bike. Until you try it with many falls and injuries then only there is progress. For without trying it out, it’s only good on paper and in theory.
      Will try out what the tips you offer here.
      You are wise to block all comments on your blog. Just like Dotseng’s blog. It’s either take it or leave it. You are not obliged to entertain others when you blog. Sometimes, it could be quite tedious.


  2. patriot says:

    Saying the TRUTH sincerely and courteously is all that is needed.
    Diplomacy is for PROs and diplomats.



    • deane says:

      Isn’t being courteous not dissimilar to being diplomatic? Your statement slights PROs and diplomats.


  3. agongkia says:

    But I dun understand where is the fun of blogging for myself.Does that mean I can blog and say whatever I want and prevent others from giving their view on my thoughts?
    I hope to have a chance to blog one day after learning from you all.But I will be one who will welcome criticism and let others challenge my view and criticise me as I can learn from others.
    For I know that I am not perfect.
    I also hope that blogger do let me know that I am not welcome in their blog and I will stay away far far from them.Those who criticise without proof are answerable to themselves.Those who criticise on me are guiding me.Its a learning process for me.
    Looks like I better go back to my old hobby of writing to pen pals where I can still meet or date them,before having my views seen as criticism.


    • No worry. You are welcome to give your views here.


    • Tiffany says:

      Lohcifer states on his blog: “Remember, this blog is written for a very small audience – ME. Yes, this is MY blog. For MY thoughts and feelings, for ME to decide what to do with it. I didn’t start this blog for you. I write for myself primarily. Why do I do this? What is this blog’s raison d’être? I do this to discipline myself, to force myself to write something on a regular basis – schedule permitting – and hopefully in the process, prevent getting Alzheimer’s one day.”


  4. patriot says:

    Hi Deane;
    may I say courtesy is desirable oni when it is sincerely expressed.
    When it is shown as lip service and or for business motive, it loses
    its’ essence and meaning.

    I like You to know that I harbour no disrespect or make light of the

    Rulers who care not their people and lawyers and judges who know
    not justice are people I scoff at.



  5. shoebutton says:

    Someone said before, “ask for permission”
    Ask for permission to give feedback – those who give will be receptive and reflect. Those who refuse will probably never change, so don’t even bother to give.


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