Talking Beyond Talk #9: Critique for Judgement

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To Critique, or Not To Critique? 

What do we do when we are faced with a difficult decision? For most of us, we are most likely to consider the situation and weigh our different options before taking action. Perhaps, we might even rely on the opinions of others to break it for us. This is where the brilliance of the critique voice comes into play.
Our in-built ‘pros and cons’ sifter, the critique voice introduces objectivity into our worldview. It prompts us to consider all angles within a situation, in order to drive us towards making a confident choice. This is why it is said that we critique for judgment.
In everyday life, the sound of this voice grates. It’s tricky to critique without being heard to criticise. statements like, “I’m not trying to criticise” really don’t hold water. In its cruder form, we will hear, “I like the blue but it won’t go with the green”. Or maybe even, “The first half was good but the lack of defence meant that they conceded two goals in the last 10 minutes and lost”.
But a skilful critique offers balanced judgement. It highlights both the good and the bad, such as with “I like the new features, but I wonder if we lose something by not retaining the original specs.” It is the effortless weaving of facts, ideas, opinions and experiences from any given context into a web of subtle evaluation.

Critique Voice: The Hidden Power

In SoundWave, the critique voice refers to the brilliance of dissection. It is to take an idea, practice or event and to draw it apart. It works to separate, against given assumptions, preferences or hypotheses, the good and the bad, the workable from the unworkable, the intelligent from the dull. Evaluative in nature, it signals caution based on the identified risk and initiative, given the identified opportunity. Its power goes way beyond the simple statement of what’s wrong.
At one level, this ‘brilliance of dissection’ is all around us so it’s easy to miss the full impact of its brilliance. Read a good film review, for instance, and you will see how the structure of a film is taken apart and then laid out again in a more novel formulation. Listen to a sports pundit, dissect the performance of your team making clear its strengths and limitations along the way.
When we use our critique voice well, we provide judgment that is fair. It shines the light on perspectives and insights that may not have been seen otherwise. It also makes us more trustworthy, and a credible source of evaluation!

Using The Critique Voice Too Much, And Too Little 

Have you ever been stuck in a conversation where people kept telling you about the problems and loopholes in your ideas or decisions? It is likely that you felt highly judged and chastised!
Considering that the critique voice is used to dissect, it is easy to focus on the weaknesses and identified risks. So you must be careful in managing the accentuations. When you over-use this voice, your listeners might experience you as criticising them. This is likely to damage their self-esteem and cause defensiveness.
On the other hand, a world without the critique voice means a world lacking in thoroughness. A failure to critique when critique is needed amounts to a lost opportunity to arrive at sound judgements and may characterise you to be unrigorous.

How to Critique For Judgement Skilfully?

If you have the critique voice as one of your preferred choices, chances are that you are evaluative in nature. As a natural commentator, you tend to notice areas of improvement and opportunities that others do not. However, where you may be intending to critique for betterment, others may perceive it as finding fault and tearing them down. As one of the more socially risky voices, it is important to ensure that the impact of our critique voice carries as intended.
How can we do this? By ensuring that our critique is better contextualised and balanced. This makes it appear less of an ‘on the one hand and on the other’ evaluation, and more of a neutral evaluation of the situation. Think of the critique voice as a double-beam scale—where there is too much or too little on either side, trouble awaits!
To fully exploit the brilliance of the critique voice, it is important to:
  1. Be sensitive to the negativity in your language and tone. As the critiquing voice tends to naturally highlight issues and problems, it is easy to seem harsh.
  2. Balance the areas of improvement with strengths and possible opportunities. After all, evaluation isn’t just about fixing things. This could also be a chance to invite others to verbalise their opinions and considerations.
  3. Listen closely to the nature of the problem. As you evaluate, force yourself to be mindful of your thought process. You are not just looking for what doesn’t work, but also for strengths and opportunities. This helps to increase your credibility as a source of sound judgement.

On the surface, the critique voice can be heard as a voice of negativity, so it is important to remember the impact of the voice. We critique for judgement. And what do we need in order to provide fair judgement? A clear evaluation. Skilful use of the critique voice ensures that the discussion generated is more of a directive process, instead of critical feedback. In turn, people become more enlightened and reflective. They are able to see what is lacking, and what their available options are, in order to create alternative courses of action.

How does your Critique fair? Take our SoundWave Brilliance 3 Communication Assessment to find out your top preferred voices!

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Maalikka is the latest addition to SoundWave's team of marketing and content extraordinaries. As an avid reader, writer and learner, she’s always on the lookout for new information online or interesting conversations to inspire her. Her other passions include gaming, Netflix, and cats.

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