In How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie provides the first rule: “Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.” I have always found this to be the most difficult of all rules to follow. Frankly it is because I have little tolerance for incompetence and ignorance. Still it provides valuable instruction for us all.
Thinking deeper about criticism and whose we validate most often leads us to ourselves as both the most accurate (in our own opinion) and harshest (unfortunately so). Given that individually people are their own toughest critic, this provides reason to praise and encourage – especially when it is difficult to do so. When we avoid criticizing others, we let the other person discover their own errors without our interference. Whether those persons are colleagues, clients or direct reports avoid the temptation.
If you are your own toughest critic, so too are they their own harshest critic. Give praise and encouragement and let the other person save face.
Who knows, the next time roles may be reversed and you’ll be thankful for that opportunity to coach yourself because you are the harshest critic you will likely ever face. And the last person you want to let down is yourself. Go ahead, be tough on yourself and be kind toward others.