Constructive Feedback vs. Destructive Feedback

Feedback is a tricky thing. First of all, a critique or criticism is not necessarily the same things as feedback. What separates criticism and feedback is the intent. The intention of a critique or criticism is to convey an opinion. Some critiques are negative, some positive, some articulate, and some are crass. A critique is neither wrong, nor right. It’s just an opinion.  A critique would be something like, “I hated your story,” or “Your story really moved me.”

The intent behind feedback, however, is to provide corrective action based on the opinion.  In this sense, feedback is neither negative, nor positive.  It would be more accurate to say that feedback is either constructive, or destructive.

An example of constructive feedback would be, “I really appreciated how detailed you were with your character back stories.” An example of destructive feedback would be, “I felt your character back stories lacked detail.” In the former, the person providing the feedback gives the writer room to build on her strengths. In the latter, the person giving the feedback basically demoralized the writer.

This kind of feedback is destructive because you are focusing on what the writer did wrong, rather than helping the writer build on her strengths.  You are also focused on getting the writer to write like you rather than allowing the writer to build (or construct) their own style.  This is equivalent to destroying her style, and trying replacing it with yours.  Maybe her style isn’t to focus on character background. Who’s to say she’s wrong?

When giving feedback, focus more on what made you connect to the work rather than what disconnected you to the work. By focusing on what you appreciated about the work, the weaknesses tend to vanish by themselves. Rather than spotlighting the person’s weaknesses, help them build on their strengths instead. Help them construct their own style.

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