Giving feedback or criticism is never easy to do without making someone feel bad. Time suggests that when you orient the feedback around the overall goal, it’s more likely to come across as helpful rather than hurtful.
The idea here is that when feedback is oriented around a goal, say, finishing a project at work, and not just nitpicking a minor thing without context, people are more open to your advice:
Information about performance means little if it’s not understood in relation to an ultimate goal. Hattie and Timperley have formulated three questions that feedback can help answer: “Where am I going?” (That is: What is my goal?) “How am I going?” (That is: What progress is being made toward my goal?) Lastly, “Where to next?” (That is: What actions must be taken to make further progress?) Feedback is most effective, research has found, when it directly addresses the learner’s advancement toward a goal, and not other, less-pertinent aspects of performance. (If it’s not relevant to the goal, don’t bring it up.)
It’s a simple idea that makes sense. When you’re both working towards a common goal, it’s easier to accept the criticism or feedback when you have the right context. Combined with a few other general rules, you’ll be less likely to upset someone and actually give useful criticism. Head over to Time for a few more ways to give better feedback.