Be careful how you offer advice and critique

I recently attended a professional conference that was planned and hosted by a friend. Halfway through the conference, I saw him in the hallway and he asked me how I thought the conference was going. I said I was enjoying it, but then I added, “I do wish the sessions would start on time; and, it would be helpful to have a center aisle in the main meeting area.”

While both comments were true, they were unnecessary and inappropriate. I was 94% pleased with the conference but my friend probably walked away from our conversation remembering my negative comments. It wasn’t my place to micro-critique; his team would do that at the right time. I regret speaking those words.

Most unsolicited advice and critique is unappreciated and unproductive. Even when it is requested we need to be careful as to when and how we speak. To some degree, we’re all thin-skinned and sensitive to criticism and review.


  • In any given situation, is it your responsibility or right to offer advice and critique? Just having an opinion is no justification for expressing it.
  • When you do have the right to offer advice and critique, consider the proper timing. For example, suppose your child just played a violin recital and the family has just gotten in the car. Is this the right time and place to say, “You played out of tune; you should have been better prepared”? (This example comes from personal experience, I’m ashamed to say.)
  • Following all events, schedule a debriefing meeting at which time the event will be analyzed. (“Our workshop is this Saturday. Let’s meet next Tuesday morning to analyze and critique the event.”) Both observers of the event and those who actually performed can anticipate having a fair, thorough, and productive examination of what took place.

I am a huge advocate of analyzing everything; all products, services, events…everything. Just be sensitive to when and how you do it.

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12 thoughts on “Be careful how you offer advice and critique

  1. This article is a great reminder for me! It is very easy to get caught up in my own agenda and not listen or praise someone’s sincere efforts. Everybody has an opinion, but often instead of joining in the fray, it is better to pray about it and work with others towards a viable solution. Thanks, Don.

  2. Thank you for reminding me of this very important part of my life. Zig use to say . People don’t care how much you know ,until they know how much you care . One little word can destroy everything you have built up . BUT

    • It’s so good to hear from you, Barry. I hope you are doing well. Thanks for being my friend and for helping me on the iPlace years ago. Don

  3. Thank you for this blog post, Don. I needed to read this. Indeed timing is key to giving helpful feedback.

  4. For those of us who have completed feedback forms at events which appear to have been filed away, never to be seen again, a certain level of frustration arises. I agree that it can be unhelpful to make negative comments part the way through an event and, often, when we see the big picture we can appreciate that our feelings were out of proportion but attendees may have sacrificed family time or paid for their attendance and it is important that they have some positive experience for their investment.

    • You bring up some good thoughts. When is immediate feedback needed and justified? Do event coordinators pay attention to solicited feedback? Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Don