From criticizing to providing feedback

At one point, people used to “criticize” each other. But then it was too harsh and hurtful to criticize, so instead, people started “giving criticism” to each other. (Notice the shift from a direct to a more indirect voice.) This was still too hard for many, so then we start to “give constructive criticism.” (Note the addition of a positive adjective — lessening the impact of a negative phrase.)But this was too long to say so then we stopped giving constructive criticism and started “to critique” — which has come to mean “high end criticism.” This then gave way to “giving critiques” (note the same pattern of lessening the impact by turning it from a verb into a noun). This one, however, didn’t last, and was quickly replaced by “giving feedback,” which then became “providing feedback” (note give — provide adds an additional syllable: longer words conceal more than smaller words do) — which is where we remain today.

Although we’re still “giving/providing feedback” today, that’s just starting to be replaced by its successor: “providing developmental feedback.” (Note, again, another example of adding a positive adjective to a negative phrase.)

This pattern is more invidious than it seems to be at face value: big words often hide big deeds, and big deeds are more often than not bad deeds. One of the key weapons in fighting the laziness of thought (and all the problems that derive from this) is through clarity in language. (Random thoughts)

By Richard Brisebois

I help companies develop their leaders. I help managers develop themselves and their teams.
Richard Brisebois is a leadership development professional who has worked with 7,000+ managers, leaders, and business owners in 40+ countries, from Fortune50 executives to SME business owners and tribal leaders. He specializes in designing and facilitating leadership development programs as well in team coaching.