Thoughts Inspiration Education: The Tao of Constructive Criticism

Updated: Aug 11, 2019



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The topic of constructive criticism within the subject of words is one that will probably bring up mixed feelings in a lot of people. Simply because we hone in more on the “criticism” part than the “constructive” bit. And let’s be honest, the word constructive, as well as the word criticism is widely interpreted, often to the point where they have nothing to do with their original meaning anymore. Either because the words used are so destructive, or because the person voicing the critique is so scared to hurt the receiver or make them angry and perhaps even unfriend the critic in retaliation that there isn’t a healthy exchange.

But healthy and respectful criticism and an open dialogue are important for your own development as well as that of another. And if you care about your friend or even a stranger (who is asking), be open to discussion, to give your opinion and also receive suggestions of how you could improve your own work.


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To start out with, let us look at the origin and meaning of both words.

The origin of “constructive” is as follows:

Latin: con-, meaning together; Latin: struere (verb), meaning to pile, to heap.

Latin: construere, to pile or heap together.

The Google Dictionary defines “constructive” as:

having or intended to have a useful or beneficial purpose.

"constructive advice"

Synonyms: positive, useful, of use, helpful, encouraging

Antonyms: destructive, negative

Dictionary.com defines it in a very similar manner:

helping to improve; promoting further development or advancement

(opposed to destructive): constructive criticism.

The origin of “criticism” is as follows:

Latin: criticus (noun, adjective), meaning critic (noun), critical (adjective), decisive (adjective), judge (noun, verb)

Dictionary.com defines “criticism” as:

the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.

From the above, it is obvious already that anything constructive cannot possibly mean to attack, belittle or destroy someone’s work or even the person itself. Constructive mean to build up, so even if you dismantle the work, you do it in a way that is building up the person’s knowledge and confidence, their joy in their work. You don’t crush someone in a way that they crash to the ground emotionally and then proceed to kick them some more verbally.


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Unfortunately, there are some people who do this, claiming to be honest and wanting someone’s best was sufficient justification for their cruelty and narcissism. On the other hand, people with an exaggerated fear of loss will not say anything at all for fear of the other person feeling offended and blocking them out of his or her life, thus perhaps setting up another for a free fall which could have been avoided by a gentle nudge or a loving heart-to-heart.

Having a person’s best interest at heart means to be truthful and, if possible, to shield them from potentially greater harm by directing their attention to a conflicting circumstance.

It is quite possible, therefore, to discuss the merits of someone’s work or endeavours in a manner that is uplifting, inspiring, helpful and knowledgeable. The criticised person can learn from it, gain greater clarity and confidence in improving his or her work in the future by taking into account the points made and knowledge shared by the critic. In this way, there has been a positive exchange and a building of personal knowledge and resources. It should feel good, uplifting and, most of all, empowering.

I've had some verbally and emotionally abusive people in my life, but they are no longer with me. Who remains are loving friends and well-meaning business associates who sincerely have my best interests at heart and communicate with me accordingly, the same as I will do with them.

So let’s learn from and uplift each other!


I’d love to know how you like to criticise and how does it feel for you to be criticised?

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