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Discussion: Constructive Criticism vs Criticism

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Discussion: Constructive Criticism vs Criticism

Postby Alcarin » Wed Sep 03, 2014 12:08 am

EDIT: I've split this from the 'Say Something Positive' thread, since I accidentally derailed it completely. :)


Personally, I'm actually glad the player base still has people that are passionately dedicated to criticizing things and giving their feedback on the state of the game.

It means that they still care quite a lot about this silly game, and are invested in it at least to some degree - which is good for us staffers, since we'd be out a hobby if people truly stopped caring.

But, I do sometimes wish that more players took a moment to thoughtfully voice their concerns and feedback, so that it's easier to approach that feedback openly and with an interest in listening and collaborating, rather than defending.

Luckily, there are a large number of players who do just this, which is absolutely awesome. Kudos to all of you that resist the urge to attack, I definitely appreciate it - especially if I've screwed up on something or put my foot in my mouth - and I'm sure the other staffers do, too.
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Re: Say Something Positive

Postby Rivean » Wed Sep 03, 2014 2:55 am

Alcarin wrote:But, I do sometimes wish that more players took a moment to thoughtfully voice their concerns and feedback, so that it's easier to approach that feedback openly and with an interest in listening and collaborating, rather than defending.


I'd genuinely appreciate feedback on how to more effective convey criticism in a manner that is helpful and less abrasive to the staff. I'm very frequently struck by the realization that what I've posted is probably going to leave someone demotivated, and this, in addition to whatever I'm dissatisfied with in the first place, causes me to be unhappy, and is detracting from my overall experience here, and is slowly pushing me to the point where I feel that my feedback is not worth the grief it causes staff to have to read it.
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Re: Say Something Positive

Postby Seiryoku » Wed Sep 03, 2014 8:48 am

Here's my take on how to criticize something / someone.

Don't just say "this is bad". That's not only useless (how is it bad? why? what about it don't you like?), it's - as some have said - demoralizing.

If something isn't working the way you like you say exactly that "I don't think that's right". And then, immediately afterwards, explain why. Elaborating on why you disagree with something is the single most important part of criticizing because it A) gives the recipient more insight as to why it might not be right for others and B) it gives you the chance to make sure you know why you don't like it.

I've often found myself writing something up (criticizing or even defending something) and, when trying to detail the reasons for my reasoning, finding I don't really have any valid ones. Sometimes it's just a gut feeling, or bad personal experience. Maybe I do have a valid reason to defend my posture but also come up with three valid ones to support the other side.

So even when you do feel you're in the right it's making your position approachable that counts. Maybe, in the process of coming up with arguments to criticize, you'll also come up with possible solutions to the problem.

TL;DR: It's not just "it sucks". It's what it's sucking, how it's sucking it, what it's using to suck, how you'd suck it differently, etc.
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Re: Say Something Positive

Postby EltanimRas » Wed Sep 03, 2014 9:46 am

Seiryoku wrote:TL;DR: It's not just "it sucks". It's what it's sucking, how it's sucking it, what it's using to suck, how you'd suck it differently, etc.

This may be good advice for most people.

However, Riv should not listen to it. His problem is that he likes to write elaborate, detailed, and very long descriptions of the first three points on this list. If he wants to make his posts less discouraging, I'd suggest he try skipping straight to the last point, instead. Just say what he'd change, how he'd you change it, and what benefits would ensue.

Nobody likes to read five-paragraph essays about exactly how and why something they've worked long and hard on (for free) is the worst thing since Hitler, uglier than his moustache, viler than his philosophy, more pernicious than his nationalism, etc., etc.
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Re: Say Something Positive

Postby Alcarin » Wed Sep 03, 2014 10:45 am

Giving feedback (especially criticism) in a way that won't demotivate someone can be a very difficult thing to do. It goes beyond merely detailing all of the reasons we might have to criticize or correct, and the emotional language and content of the message is probably even more important than the actual details of the criticisms.

While it is quite important to be specific and detailed in what can or should be corrected, as Seiryoku mentioned, it is just as important to bear EltanimRas's point in mind, too.

While I disagree with the idea that long, detailed essays are necessarily bad things, I would like to strongly emphasize this particular point:

EltanimRas wrote:Nobody likes to read five-paragraph essays about exactly how and why something they've worked long and hard on is the worst thing since Hitler


The real art of constructive criticism is in motivating the other person to WANT to see things your way, and WANT to make changes that will correct the issue you are perceiving. It is generally a terrible thing to argue with another person, because no matter how thoroughly you may feel that you have proven your point's correctness, if you've hurt their pride and feelings (especially publicly, like on a forum) then they will be infinitely more interested in finding ways to save face than in finding ways to compromise with you.

In my career, I am required to spend most of my time observing employees, monitoring the quality of their performance, and then having frequent conversations with them to encourage them, point out the ways that they can improve, and motivate them to both create a plan on how to improve and then carry out that plan.

Often, I've found that the best advice I can give for getting a criticism to be taken positively, is to start out with a compliment. Find SOMETHING that they have done right and that you approve of and genuinely like or enjoy, and open the conversation with that. This helps to put them at ease, get them into a more positive and receptive frame of mind, and establishes yourself as a friendly persona rather than a critic to be feared or mistrusted.

Afterward, while it is ESSENTIAL to be very specific and detailed in your feedback, it is also important to couch this feedback in a way that allows the other person to A) save face and B) NOT take it personally in such a way as to become defensive.

For example, if I were to have an employee that is consistently failing to speak with a customer appropriately (perhaps they just sigh a lot and generally seem like they're disgusted with everything and don't want to interract), but are very technically minded and good at actually fixing things (I'm a manager at an IT call center, for reference) then we've got a lot of different ways that this feedback can be given, both effective and not-effective:



Option 1: "Joe, unfortunately, I've been getting a lot of customer feedback saying that you don't care about their problem, you always sound angry, and that they would much rather call another group than have to ever deal with you again. In light of that, I want you to focus on becoming more positive and cheerful when talking to the customers. Smile into the phone, and make sure to give them a warm and happy feeling as best you can."

Option 2: "Joe, I want to say that you're an excellent technician. In the past three months, you've escalated only 5% of your calls to the second level helpdesk, and your customers never call back after you've fixed their issue, unless they have a different issue entirely. I'm getting a little concerned that some of the customers are rating you poorly on attitude, though: They leave comments that say things like "He just seemed like he didn't want to help me." What do you think we can do to make sure they see how great you are?"

It's also preferrable to have a private conversation about such things than to call the person out in a public meeting among their peers and friends. That way if they do initially feel embarrassed or defensive, it can be deflated in a place where they don't feel like they are being judged by an audience.



Sure, these are rather cheesy and 'by-the-book' examples (I'm not allowed to share any actual examples, unfortunately) but I think they capture the essence of what I'm trying to say. (For reference, Option 2 is usually far more constructive and useful than Option 1 would be).

It isn't that you have to kiss-up to the person that you're criticising, so much as, give them a reason to want to listen to you and make sure that you're clearly establishing yourself as being on their side, and give them an opportunity to save face.

Don't JUST attack them or their work and narrate the million different ways that it sucks and how it sucks specifically and how it could suck less. On its own, that isn't constructive.


TL;DR: Constructive Criticism is all about motivating the person and preventing them from feeling shamed, embarrassed or defensive, so that they will be receptive to seeing things your way and taking actions that you do approve of.


P.S. None of the above is official staff view, so far as I am aware. It is merely me commenting on a topic that I'm interested in. Additionally, I don't have any players specifically in mind, so if you (in the general sense) feel that any of this was directed at you personally, please accept my apologies. :)
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Re: Say Something Positive

Postby Rivean » Wed Sep 03, 2014 12:04 pm

Great post. I'm going to be thinking about how I can incorporate some of this into how I give feedback.

I've heard from multiple sources that criticism is better talked over in private. I've always been uncomfortable with the idea though, partly since I have never been in the habit of speaking privately with admins about game issues (unless in the capacity of a clan lead, which necessitates some privacy)and I would be horrified to be accused of receiving some sort of preferential treatment from staff, or of making use of channels that Joe Newbie doesn't have access to.

Some of this is probably irrational, since I rarely ever rant about anything particularly pertinent or specific to my PC, but there you have it.
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Re: Say Something Positive

Postby EltanimRas » Wed Sep 03, 2014 12:21 pm

Rivean wrote:I rarely ever rant about anything particularly pertinent or specific, but there you have it.

ftfy

Also, thanks, Alcarin!
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Re: Say Something Positive

Postby Alcarin » Wed Sep 03, 2014 1:12 pm

Rivean wrote:I've heard from multiple sources that criticism is better talked over in private. I've always been uncomfortable with the idea though, partly since I have never been in the habit of speaking privately with admins about game issues (unless in the capacity of a clan lead, which necessitates some privacy)and I would be horrified to be accused of receiving some sort of preferential treatment from staff, or of making use of channels that Joe Newbie doesn't have access to.


In response to this specific thing, I'll offer the following points:

#1. Private doesn't necessarily have to mean 1:1. You can very easily send PMs to all RPAs or just lead staff, or even CC in other affected players/player groups if you feel the conversation would benefit from involving them. That's still dramatically different from, say, a thread in General Discussion for the entire game to see and comment on.

#2. If you are concerned about the perception of receiving preferential treatment through approaching staff directly, well, that is a concern.

I'd recommend two things: first, include a disclaimer or request to keep things private, or if you're truly paranoid, we would probably benefit from setting up some manner for players to anonymously feedback things -- I'll look into it.

Secondly, bear in mind that we are actually probably more concerned about seeming to give preferential treatment - we on staff-side are VERY aware of the long, dark shadow of previous administrative abuses in SoI 1/2 hanging over us, and we're very eager to distinguish ourselves as not being that sort of Staff.

So... Ultimately, I guess I don't have a lot of direct feedback for that particular point, except that you're not alone, but it's usually going to be more beneficial to contact us in a low-key manner than to either not contact us at all, or to call us out in front of everybody. ;)


One other thought, while I'm having it: By no means do I want to discourage anybody from using the general forums, even though in hindsight it probably looks like I am.

While in an ideal world it would be preferrable to always provide all criticism to everyone in a private and safe place, I'm aware that isn't always possible -- especially in an environment like ours.

This just makes it even more important to be careful with our wording and the emotional position and language used in comments on threads that DO criticize.

After all, even without the ability to go into a private discussion, there is still a big difference between, "This looks like an awesome idea - have you thought about this angle?" vs "You should think about this angle because your idea sucks without it."
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Re: Discussion: Constructive Criticism vs Criticism

Postby Frigga » Wed Sep 03, 2014 11:40 pm

I've always been uncomfortable with the idea though, partly since I have never been in the habit of speaking privately with admins about game issues (unless in the capacity of a clan lead, which necessitates some privacy)and I would be horrified to be accused of receiving some sort of preferential treatment from staff, or of making use of channels that Joe Newbie doesn't have access to.


I'll front out that this probably refers to me (though I could just be extremely vain and assuming it). So, I'll just be vain for a moment and say - all public ways to contact Frigga are indeed, free for public consumption and usage if people are interested (or brave or ... whatnot. :lol: ) Click my name, and check out my profile. I'm not exactly hiding anything.

As for a general point about criticism, I think my main thought would be - our staff is a collection of thoughtful, creative, intelligent people who love this game and our community. Thus people should always approach things with the assumption that there was thought and reasoning behind staff decisions even if such reasoning is not perhaps readily apparent (or you disagree perhaps even strongly with it.)

As such, it's easier to answer, "Hey - I was curious, what was the reasoning behind X" - in which case, I'd no doubt happily explain (or demure to say it's plot-based and leave it at that), than "Obviously, no one thought that one through." The first invites dialogue and explanation and perhaps revelation, the second just makes people feel defensive.

Also, if we are being totally frank here. I have a personal pet peeve. I hate the inference that I'm dumb. I might be (and likely am) a great many things, but stupid isn't one of them. The implication of it makes me feel overly required to prove the inference incorrect by becoming overly pedantic and argumentative usually combined with an ever increasing level of (likely obscure) vocabulary.

Good feedback: I'm not sure about this room description, something isn't quite right.

Bad feedback: Whoever wrote this obviously has a fourth grade reading level.

(Yes, that's a real example of a PM I received once. ;0 )
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Re: Discussion: Constructive Criticism vs Criticism

Postby Seiryoku » Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:57 am

I enjoyed reading through this read after my post, it gave me some things to consider I hadn't actively thought about before but actually do incorporate into my everyday life. I work with people and in such a way that, no matter how much you've achieved already, there's likely always something that we must improve upon next - so yeah, it'll usually go "hey, this is great! Look at how far you've come. Okay, so now, about this other thing..." and that's great. Positive feedback is not just good in itself but it often helps the other person be more receptive.

So thanks for putting that on my radar. :D
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Re: Discussion: Constructive Criticism vs Criticism

Postby Rivean » Thu Sep 04, 2014 3:06 am

Frigga wrote:I'll front out that this probably refers to me (though I could just be extremely vain and assuming it).


Alas, yes, you are my only friend in high places, these days.

Frigga wrote:As such, it's easier to answer, "Hey - I was curious, what was the reasoning behind X" - in which case, I'd no doubt happily explain (or demure to say it's plot-based and leave it at that), than "Obviously, no one thought that one through." The first invites dialogue and explanation and perhaps revelation, the second just makes people feel defensive.


In case of disagreement, how do you suggest someone should try to change your mind on any given piece of policy?

ETA: In other words, how can we reach an accord where there are concerns?
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Re: Discussion: Constructive Criticism vs Criticism

Postby Alcarin » Thu Sep 04, 2014 6:57 am

When you strongly disagree with something is the time when it is most important to try and see the other persin's point of view and to avoid negative connotations and inferences.

People will usually be most open to feedback from people that are seeking feedback. Counter-intuitively, admitting that i might be wrong or lacking information and can i please have x`s reasoning explained to me is a great way to get a friendly opening to lead up to my feedback.

The trick, overall, is in adopting the attitude you want to encourage. Most people are happy to give feedback and then listen attentively to the responses it generates, thus giving a friendly in for giving your own feedback. It's a little manipulative, but that doesnt mean it's evil or bad to do.
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