1. Convert Criticism into a Commitment
In Immunity to Change, Lisa Laskow Lahey and Robert Keegan argue that criticism is simply a commitment put in negative terms. They encourage would-be criticizers to rephrase their criticism in positive terms. Instead of criticizing how ineffective government is, in other words, say how committed you are to effective government. Instead of criticizing your marketing manager’s performance, simply say how committed you are to a marketing manager who meets objectives.
Following the authors’ logic, if you want to know what you really care about, start checking out what you are criticizing and convert it to a commitment. And when you’re listening to someone else rant, tell that person what it sounds like he’s committed to. You’ll reduce the amount of criticism you both say and hear.
2. Convert Criticism into a Request
Charlie Pellerin encourages readers to convert criticism into a request. In his book, How NASA Builds Teams, he says that if you can’t think of a resquest you want to make, you’re better off saying nothing. Like Lahey and Keegan, Pellerin doesn’t find criticism (on its own) productive. My family and I have been taking Pellerin’s approach out for a test drive at our home this summer, and it is working amazingly well.