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Give Positive Reviews

When you do criticize, give a suggestion of how to improve along with the opportunity to do so.

Published on: December 1, 2021
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Build Relationships by Being Positive


Someone in your household completes a chore. You think that’s not how I would do it. Your first instinct is to point out what they did wrong – in your mind. Rethink this! Are you teaching a lesson or thanking someone for helping? If your goal is to teach a lesson, critique away. If not, let them know how much you appreciate their efforts.

teaching moment

Here’s an example of what not to do. My husband went grocery shopping. In addition to the items on the list, he purchased a package of blueberries because he knows that I like them. When I was unpacking, I said, “Blueberries? They weren’t on the list! We already have plenty.” You can imagine how that made him feel.

Alternatively,  I could have said, “Blueberries! Great! Now I have enough to make that pie that I have been talking about. Thanks!”  The positive review would have made my husband feel good.  Even if I never made the pie and froze the extra blueberries, I would have built some good will. Instead, I spent the next few hours apologizing and back pedaling.

blueberry carton

Sometimes it takes someone getting mad to realize how your negative comments affect others. The truth is that most people want to do a good job, so some acknowledgement goes a long way. One of the suggestions in the book, The Swim Coaching Bible, is to say something positive every day to every swimmer. So if you have a bank of complements, a critique now and then doesn’t feel so bad. The key is to make it subtle and give an opportunity to remediate.

PLUSSING: Here’s where I am starting. What can I do with this? How do I PLUS this? How do I accept the offer and make my partner look good?

Randy Nelson

Former Dean of Pixar University, Disney

Suggestions for Positive Critiquing

  1. Depersonalize it.
    Instead of saying, “You made mistakes x, y and z.” Say: “This first draft hits all of the main points, but have some spelling errors. I am looking forward to seeing the final polished product.”
  2. Use their previous work as a standard.
    “I really liked the format you used on the Acme project. Could you make this project look more like the Acme one?
  3. Always provide a second chance.
    Identify the problem and make a suggestion of how to fix it.
  4. Avoid complement sandwiches.
    They are confusing!

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