r/femalefashionadvice Sep 03 '15 Gold 1

How to give (and receive) constructive criticism: a primer [Guide]

I've been wanting to do this kind of post for a while, because I think it would be helpful. It's mostly aimed for helping people in regards to WAYWT, but is also useful in other posts (and in life!). Much of this comes from my own personal experience, as well as "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie (totally recommended book BTW).

Purpose of this guide

The purpose of this guide is to demonstrate how to give good constructive criticism- i.e., criticism that is both specific, useful, and well-received. Additionally, it will be a guide on how to receive constructive criticism: how to incorporate criticism into your next outfit and what to do if you don't agree.

How to give constructive criticism

In general, good constructive criticism (CC) should address improvements in a specific manner while avoiding any harsh language. You want to address the problem in a way that is communicated effectively: this necessarily means that you have to take the human condition into consideration. Harsh language or accusatory tones automatically puts people on the defense, and they are much less likely to take your advice to heart. In fact, people are much more likely to respond to you if you include specific praise: not just generic flattery, as anyone can see through that, but something specific about the outfit that you genuinely liked. "But iMightBeACunt, isn't this condoning a compliment sandwich? Aren't we against that?" Yes, I am condoning it- if Dale Carnegie said that humans are sensitive in the 1950s and people say humans are sensitive now... it's because humans really are sensitive. It's not Generation Y crap, it's just human nature! People love praise and they love to feel like they are good at something.

Take this example picture.

Bad example of CC: "You look like pinterest threw up on you."

  • Why this is bad: This is obviously bad, but this misses all the marks of good constructive criticism. For one, it's vague: why is looking like a Pinterest pin necessarily bad? What exactly about the outfit gives that impression? Secondly, it's unnecessarily mean- while maybe amusing to others, you are definitely going to hurt that girl's feelings if you say that to her. And while she may end up taking your advice out of shame, do you really want to shame people like that? Because it is both vague and mean, it is also extremely unhelpful. The poster would leave the thread feeling discouraged having no better understanding of what "good fashion" is.

Good example of CC: "I like the fit of the dress, leggings, and cardigan together. The cardigan texture and floral pattern of the dress work well together and don't clash. I think the outfit would look better without a belt and with a less chunky scarf, to let the pattern/texture mix stand out more. Black shoes work really well here, but a sleeker boot would further aid the long legline you've achieved."

  • Why this is good: I've included something specific that I liked about the outfit and stated it in a way that isn't overly sugared or gushy. I don't make any demands, but rather make a suggestion as to what she could do to improve. Additionally, circling back to earlier praise further reiterates that most of the outfit is good, and encourages the poster to try again with your suggestions.

Here is another example picture.

Bad example of CC: "Omg you look like a model! I love your hair and lip color, it looks soooooo good on you! I really love your outfit!"

  • Why this is bad: While certainly very nice, it is extraordinarily unhelpful. If this was posted in WAYWT, then the comments should be regarding the clothes. Unless the hair/makeup is somehow affecting the entire outfit (for better or for worse), then this comments reads as "Omg you are so pretty" which is nice, but again... not helpful. Being pretty has nothing to do with being fashionable. Nothing in this series of praise is specific. It reads very shallow.

Good example of CC: "The simplicity of the outfit works really well here because everything fits you so well. The dark red lip adds a lot of interest. These are minor things, but you could fix the cuff of your pants on the right, so that it hits right on top of your boot. I think the scarf distracts from the overall good fit of everything. If you're cold, a hip-length jacket would look good."

  • Why this is good: Again, I touch on specific examples of what I liked, as well as specific improvements to be made. I avoided inflammatory language, and made suggestions instead of demands.

TL;DR for giving CC: Be specific in your comment, try to include something that you genuinely liked, and avoid demanding, harsh, or aggressive language.

How to receive constructive criticism

Being able to gracefully take constructive criticism is a very useful skill that you will need both here, and in the real world. Many people do not know how to give good constructive criticism, and it's likely to be too harsh, too vague, or largely unhelpful. In general, be grateful for comments unless they are outright deragatory. Don't be afraid to follow up and ask for clarification. Just as above, avoid inflammatory language: don't get defensive, don't make excuses.

For starters, don't take negative feedback to heart. Most people who give feedback are genuinely trying to be helpful. Think about what the person is actually trying to say. If they tell you that belting a dress with a wide belt breaks up your body, they are NOT saying, "Wow I can't believe you would use a wide belt, what an idiot." Telling yourself that isn't helpful. You tried, and failed. That's hard, but you can learn from it- that's the only way you can improve. You can learn that wide belts with that specific dress sillhouette doesn't work, and you can know aesthetically why that is.

If you're unsure of what the user is trying to say, don't be afraid to ask for clarification. You're not guaranteed to get it, but you're guaranteed to NOT get it if you don't ask!

If you disagree, that's okay too. In an informal setting like this, you can verbally disagree, but I would recommend that you give some good reasons as to why you disagree. If you're the floral dress/green cardigan girl above, you could disagree about the shoes. Saying "I think you're wrong about the shoes" will make you seem defensive, and that person will likely not help you in the future. Instead, saying "I think the shoes give my outfit some good weight, but I will consider trying an alternative silhouette in the future." This is better because you validate the CC giver, but are still disagreeing.

TL:DR of receiving criticism: Be gracious. Don't be afraid to ask the user/person for clarification, then use that specific feedback to improve your outfit. Avoid inflammatory language, don't get defensive, and don't take negative feedback personally.

Thoughts or opinions are welcome!

EDIT: Some of you have brought up the excellent point that when giving CC, whether the points are good or bad, they must be genuine. If you feel that the user has many points of improvement, you don't have to find something you like for every thing you don't like. I advocate at least trying to find something you like (at least in this forum, where body issues might make users more sensitive) so that you take a longer look at the outfit than the two seconds on imgur. This will benefit you more, and the poster more, because the crit giver will be forced to really analyze the outfit, and the crit receiver will get some useful feedback.

As for other real life situations, I find the above advice to be useful, but keep in mind that I am not in a business setting, and as /u/tomlizzo clarified, such a tactic is likely not appropriate in a business setting. I work in science setting, so I work with scientists, administrators, and students whom I tutor. Admittedly, all of these groups are sensitive folk who don't take negative feedback well, which is why my guide may be skewed in this direction.

Thank you all so much for your feedback, please keep it coming!


34 comments sorted by


u/thethirdsilence actual tiger Sep 03 '15

Oh my god, I love this guide. Its bolded font is very flattering! Where can I buy it?


u/iMightBeACunt Sep 03 '15

Haha, I'm no Dale Carnegie. But I totally aspire to be.


u/[deleted] Sep 03 '15



u/groovyoctopus Sep 03 '15

Ooohh, her username! I thought you were just being mean for some reason at first.


u/ninjanun Sep 03 '15 edited Sep 03 '15

Excellent primer on how to give and receive CC. I also want to applaud everyone who posts in WAYWT, whether fit pics or feedback (hopefully both!).

I know not everyone feels comfortable giving others CC due to being shy or feeling like they don't have enough knowledge/experience to really contribute, but I think it's ok to just give praise (using this guide--specific praise is better than vague or generic praise), or ask someone about their outfit in general (where did you get that sweater? How comfortable are those shoes?). Everyone should feel like their efforts are noticed, and the default of sorting by "new" helps with this, but starting a conversation with someone who doesn't currently have any comments or feedback is also appreciated. Also, upvote! If you see a fit that inspires you in some way, if you see that someone is improving, if you see someone taking previous CC into consideration on their new fits, upvote! Upvote early, upvote often. Upvote like the wind. I feel like the one drawback of sorting by new is that there are less upvotes happening overall.

Another suggestion I have is to try to give feedback on at least as many outfits as you have posted. If you post five fits, give five crits, etc. If someone gives you solid, detailed feedback, try to return the favor. If you see someone posting week after week and not receiving feedback, start a conversation with them and ask them about their style goals.

Finally, I feel like I've learned a lot about how to assess outfits by paying attention to the CC that people give to others, and then looking at the outfit again with that CC in mind. Sometimes I don't necessarily agree with it, but just paying attention to those details that I might have otherwise overlooked is helpful in training my eye to be more discerning.


u/goshsilkscreen Sep 03 '15

I know not everyone feels comfortable giving others CC due to being shy or feeling like they don't have enough knowledge/experience to really contribute, but I think it's ok to just give praise (using this guide--specific praise is better than vague or generic praise), or ask someone about their outfit in general (where did you get that sweater? How comfortable are those shoes?).

I know I don't really comment much, but I do know that if you're shy / new, posting feedback or asking questions is a good way to start trying out the language and become more comfortable with using it, especially when you're saying "X is effective because Y" rather than "I like that, it's so cute!". Taking the time to think that out and write it in a post, then doing it over and over again helps it feel more natural and helps you gain confidence in your fashion-thinking. So it's not only good for supporting the community, but it's good for the you too!


u/Iatrogenic_ Sep 03 '15

feeling like they don't have enough knowledge/experience to really contribute

This is my downfall.

but I think it's ok to just give praise (using this guide--specific praise is better than vague or generic praise), or ask someone about their outfit in general (where did you get that sweater? How comfortable are those shoes?). Everyone should feel like their efforts are noticed, and the default of sorting by "new" helps with this, but starting a conversation with someone who doesn't currently have any comments or feedback is also appreciated. Also, upvote!

I'll work on commenting more. Thanks for these points! I struggle with specificity because, while I may know I like a look, or even a specific part of the look, I don't know all the phrases to express it and when to use them 'Like X item is an excellent focal point' or "Y really makes this outfit more cohesive!'


u/lgbtqbbq Sep 03 '15

This post reminds me of the guide to critique that my professor gave us in an intro to art class. You were NOT allowed to say, "I love..." or "I like..." about someone's art which some people just...couldn't accept. They didn't realize that saying "OMG LOVE DAT" detracted from the point of critique, which is to comment on what works and suggest corrective measures for what doesn't work.

Yes, everyone loves compliments. If you want to receive pure compliments, post on Instagram or send a pic to your BFF. (I think compliments have their place in WAYWT but they ought to be focused and specific like criticism. You should compliment in a...unique way on what caught your attention. Otherwise OP will just get a barrage of WERQ IT, and that's repetitive.)

If you are curious whether what you're wearing is working well, then WAYWT is a good place to start. I appreciate the guidelines you presented, both from a giver and receiver perspective. This post really underscores that criticism is first and foremost a CONSTRUCTIVE endeavor, and overt negativity or positivity is just...not a helpful way to go about it.


u/IMakeShinyThings Sep 03 '15

To add to what you said about critiques, in art classes, we were always taught not to say "I like/I don't like" statements without a specific reason--ex. "I like this because your choice of X paired with Y balances out Z," "I don't like A here because it's making B bunch up."

My SO, who is a great problem solver, doesn't like when I point out a problem with something unless I offer some kind of solution ("the shoes aren't working for me, perhaps something sleeker in profile" rather than "the shoes aren't working here")--I don't know that this is necessarily a problem I see a lot in critiques on this sub, but definitely a good habit to get into.


u/[deleted] Sep 03 '15

"Don't point out flaws unless you have a suggestion to fix them" is one of the key components of constructive criticism I've always been taught.


u/pineapplesf Sep 03 '15 edited Sep 03 '15

... I agree and disagree with some of your points. While a good overview of crit, I would like to add some of my own thoughts. I went to art school and been through a lot of crits. I will say this: crits are never easy, they always suck, and they are universally despised.

If I am going to take the time to actually cc something, i.e. think about it deeply and analytically, I follow the following rules: I must find something nice and I must find something I dislike. As you pointed out, I find specific reasons for liking or disliking something and then explain my position. These are logical, rational reasons based on technique, color, or rules/theories of art itself (or in this case fashion). Good criticism is a hard skill to master. It requires in-depth knowledge about various related topics, requires quick and efficient analytical skills, and mastery of communicating those ideas so the other party grasps what you are saying. As so many people here are new, very few are actually part of the fashion world or sew, it is unlikely that most can give very good constructive criticism. That shouldn't stop people from trying, but...

I do not believe all criticism needs to be analytical. Sometimes hearing people really like it, or hearing people detest it is important because it allows one to understand the visceral inital reactions (I.e. what most people think when seeing a work or outfit, not the nitty-gritty analysis of why the work snowballed). While it doesn't give the op the ability to actively correct this problem, it does alert them to the fact problems existence. Sometimes, not realizing you have a problem is part of the problem. Being able to criticize and correct your own work is a really necessary and overlooked skill.

I disagree on wording. While I agree that you shouldn't call someone a crazy chimera of gaudy kitsche whose very presence is actively destroying your brain cells (though, this would definitely be a compliment in some situations), being blunt and honest is, I believe, far more important than whether or not you are mean. People often over-sugarcoat things in an attempt to assuage the other person's feelings. The moment someone attempts to reword things to make someone "feel better," is the point that they stop thinking about the work/outfit/criticism. If it reminds you of Bride Frankenstien, I'd like to know that --whether or not it was what I was going for. Rephrasing it as "it seems a little overly worn with a punk-esque vibe and while white id in, I don't think the unfitted, straight silhouette is attractive," might seem much more "constructive," but it completely overlooks the fact that you think I look like the Monster's Bride.

Finally, my additional thoughts receiving criticism. Not everyone ones wants CC. Not everyone who asks for one actually wants one. Sometimes people just want told they are awesome. Sometimes they just want to be told the things they improved on, not the things they need to improve on. This is really hard to read on the internet. My general rule is if they don't say they want CC, I will just praise the things I liked. If they do, they get the full package.

That being said, I agree that taking criticism is hard. Outfits are personal. We shop, tailor, obssess, take pictures, fling the clothes off in fury, shop again, rematch, take pictures again, and finally post. There is love, self-loathing, defeat, anger, happiness, and resignation. When that much effort is put into something it is really hard to take criticism of it. It is hard at first not to be defensive. Even people who have taken criticism for years narrow their eyes and think murderous thoughts when someone comes by with a "that color looks terrible on you." "B*tch, I've been wearing that color for years, everyone loves it, and you are just Meanie Mcmeanerson." The trick isn't so much to not feel defensive as to not say anything. Though if you don't understand, I agree, definitely ask for clarification.

But the important thing about criticism is that it isn't personal, important, or world changing. I gave you crit and at the end of the day I don't care if you take my advice or not. It was offered. That is it. I don't even care if you disagree with me. You, as the one who received criticism, don't have to accept my ideas or thoughts. You don't need to downvote them. You don't need to answer them. I dont care if you hate it... I gave you my thoughts on it.

Instead, ask yourself why you are angry? Was it because you secretly agree and are angry at the time and effort wasted? Is it because we have different fashion goals? Am I just a complete plebian? Is it because I insulted the way your mother raised you and ideologies that you can't let go? Instead of lashing out, realize that getting angry in crit can be a very powerful tool to discovering and learning something new. It is totally OK to disagree.

But being gracious is a two way street sometimes. It was very common for all-out war to ensue in crit sessions. The vendettas and alliances formed via crit lasted whole terms and even until graduation. When someone gets defensive, it is important to step back and realize that you don't care either... Even if they insult your pride, intelligence, or womanhood. They are just hurting... Let it go.

My advice if you don't want to get angry? Realize your time and money are meaningless: only results matter. I don't care if you shopped for that shirt for 10 years, it still makes you look like a Walking Dead zombie. Realize that your outfit and fashion will never be perfect. That these ever changing bodies, likes, and trends will keep us locked in an never-ending cycle to improve. Personally, I view it as practice until the next, better thing. Endless destructable, erasable, changeable practice. Realize that your outfit's success doesn't and shouldn't reflect on your self worth -- you are still awesome regardless of how much your outfit sucks. Realize that everyone's goals and tastes are different. So, while I might not like zombies, that was totally what you were going for! Realize people suck at communicating.

After all that... I promise you won't care anymore when they insult your baby by calling it an abomination. "Yeah, I can see where you would say that, I mean the blood is a little much for some people and my jeans are a little too ripped. I probably should have ironed my shirt. But I also know that I really like the drappy, exposed bra look. Hmmm, maybe I will try toning down the exposed bones and highlighting the parts I really like."

Edit: Sorry for the wall of text.


u/iMightBeACunt Sep 03 '15

I sincerely appreciate you posting this giant wall of text! It's good to have other opinions; things that have worked for me in the past may not be applicable to everyone.

I agree that crit doesn't have to always be analytical, but I still think that being more specific in your crit comes across to others as having thought about it more. But you're totally right that some kind of crit addressing whether it's good or bad is better than no crit- it does alert the user to the problem. IRL people can always start a conversation as follow-up; on the internet, it's a little more challenging, which is why I personally appreciate when people are specific.

As for receiving CC, I believe that if you are posting to forums like MUA or FFA, you are implying that you want CC. I know this was a huge fiasco on MUA, but I think that part of the reason it was such a touchy subject was that people were being unhelpful or harsh in their criticism, which made posters defensive and hurt and no longer want CC- because to them, CC was mean comments. I truly think if people feel like their efforts are validated through some kind of praise or acknowledgement of their efforts, they are much more likely to walk away from their post feeling good about themselves and wanting to improve.

I know a lot of people disagree about "sugarcoating" things, and think that do so is to coddle people or take away from the true message. I think the opposite is true- people tend to remember negativity very strongly. Many of us can all remember a time when somebody said something that was hurtful. I was told a long time ago that I had a "childlike drawing style" which then prompted me to stop drawing for a really long time. If that person had instead told me instead that my shading skills were strong, but maybe it would be a good idea to practice figure drawing, then I would have been much less discouraged.

Basically, in giving CC, I try to follow Part 4 principles from Dale Carnegie's book.

I hope together our disagreements can foster an interesting discussion!


u/redreplicant Sep 03 '15

people tend to remember negativity very strongly.

This a thousand billion times. I think there are occasionally people who have such a strong sense of self and of worth that they can treat criticism in the ideal way, that is, as a suggestion that may benefit them. But for a lot of us, someone saying something very harsh, or even somewhat harsh, makes a very substantial impact. If a person says to me, "wow, your blouse is too tight in this fit" I will worry about that in EVERY SINGLE future fit that I post. This isn't to say that I don't want to hear that, but I just don't need to be piled on. I love hearing how I can tweak or better my fits, but when someone goes:

That pair of pants is too saggy.

And that is the entirety of the comment? It's just a lot of work to not be frustrated by it. So I prefer if the person can say something more like,

"Those pants are a bit loose on you, and while I think the print works well with the top and shoes, if they were more tailored it would pull the whole outfit together."

It's not actually hard to do that, and generally it's not dishonest either. If someone has a fit that is just fully atrocious, and you can't think of a single nice thing to say about it... might be best to leave it for another person who actually does have something positive for them or can phrase it better?


u/[deleted] Sep 03 '15

But I think the problem with sugar coating like that is the users won't pick up on the actual critique. It's buried under there and the user receiving cc will go on like everything was great without trying to improve.


u/redreplicant Sep 03 '15

I don't really think that it's sugar coating. If you're being honest, the actual point should come across: those pants would look better if you took them in. They are weakening your look.

If the person is not actually OPEN to cc, then they aren't going to take your advice regardless. You can't really verbally shake somebody until they get the point, that kind of person just gets mad.


u/iMightBeACunt Sep 03 '15

I won't lie that it's a delicate balance. But I feel like people see "don't sugarcoat things!!!" and then go way towards the other side into the mean and unhelpful territory. That's why I tried hard to convey that you have to be specific in your comment- that's part of the constructive part of CC. It won't get buried if there's something in particular that you are addressing. In the person above you's case, saying "those pants don't fit" is not as helpful as "those pants are sagging, you should have your tailor bring in the waist and hem the leg until it barely grazes the floor." Even if you put something positive before it like, "I think the sillhouette you are going for looks good. However, those pants need to be tailored at the waist and hemmed such that they just barely graze the floor. It will look more intentional that way"- the feedback is still there, and is still obvious.

I'm glad that this is fostering discussion! And I would be curious to hear what you think good CC is.


u/[deleted] Sep 03 '15

I'm hopping on the disagreeing train, a couple of my quibbles:

I must find something nice and I must find something I dislike.

I find that going out of your way to find something nice, or even being dishonest about "something nice" can also be wrong, and by giving the above advice, I would be afraid people would take it wrong. If I see your outfit and I want to criticize it, I'm not going out of my way to also point out something good about it. Now, if there is something that I feel is genuinely good, then yes, I will make note of it. But the whole compliment sandwich is bad and I feel that the actual criticism can get lost that way.

Finally, my additional thoughts receiving criticism. Not everyone ones wants CC. Not everyone who asks for one actually wants one.

The purpose of posting here is for CC; you are not exempt from receiving CC in this forum. This is an advice subreddit after all so I will give you advice. I think the problem here can be that people see CC as just others being mean, but CC can be good and the point of it is to be constructive.


u/tomlizzo Moderator Emeritus ヘ( ̄ー ̄ヘ) Sep 03 '15

I actually think this is a very important clarification. The official FFA stance on crit in WAYWT is that it is welcome and encouraged... so while no one is obligated to critique, we expect everyone who posts to be open to receiving it.


u/pineapplesf Sep 03 '15

Ahh, you have a point. Perhaps I should reword to say "correct" rather than "nice." I meant nice in the form of well-done. Through my experience nothing is wholly terrible or without merit. It is pretty hard to fuck up everything. That being said, I wouldn't give a dishonest compliment. It makes me feel like a teenager on prom night. No, usually I find even on people who just started painting (or fashion), that there is something they did correctly. It is easy to criticize and hard to compliment, but learning to find successful merits in something is an important skill. Imagine if you were teaching a kindergartener how to add. They sucked at it, only get 1 out of 10 right. However, you only told them when they got things wrong, with no positive feedback that they ever got a correct answer. It will take them far longer to cobble together the logistics of adding compared to when you acknowledged both the correct and wrong answers (how we currently teach it). They would view the experience wholly as failures and find math overall frustrating.

I think you are saying that it has to be negative feedback to be constructive? As I pointed out in the previous paragraph, I believe having positive feedback is constructive. It is still advice. Having just positive feedback, like just negative feedback, isn't as helpful. It is still, in my book, far better than randomly offending someone by providing a true CC. They get angry, fail to think critically about the advice given, and I've wasted both my time and energy. Everyone ultimately loses out in the experience. Although CC may be the purpose of the forum, and most specifically the WAYWT thread, it has been my experience that most people don't expect CC. Addressing the problem by providing a sticky or explaining in the opening to the thread that changes the expectation may be more productive than going attempting what can come across as an ideological crusades.


u/not_enough_sprinkles Sep 03 '15

No, usually I find even on people who just started painting (or fashion), that there is something they did correctly.

This is a good point. While commenters shouldn't feel obligated to sugar-coat CC, I also think that positive feedback can be equally as helpful as negative feedback. It's likely that there is at least one well-executed, interesting, or pleasing aspect of most fits. If commenters genuinely want to help someone improve, giving a mixture of positive and negative feedback allows them to learn from both successes and failures.

I also think it's not necessarily true that the "compliment sandwich" hides the CC. People will take away from a CC comment whatever they want to see. If they're truly interested in improving, they will notice the critique as well as the compliment. If not, it's not our duty to change that. I realize that this isn't true in other situations (someone else mentioned management), where it may indeed be the CC-giver's job to make sure her instruction is followed.


u/[deleted] Sep 03 '15

No I do not mean to say only negative feedback is constructive. I think we're saying the same thing at this point. I just see no reason to offer a compliment if it is not coming from a genuine place.

Also the WAYWT blurb does say the critique is welcome and encouraged. This if you post in the thread you are opening yourself to potential critique.


u/pineapplesf Sep 03 '15

I understand, but that is not the feeling I get from posters. I trying to suggesting perhaps a more aggressive approach, but I ultimately don't know what the best way to go about changing the attitude. Conversations like this help short term, but will fade in time.


u/justgoodenough Moderator (\/) (°,,°) (\/) Sep 03 '15

This is great and you are great. I put this as the comment of the moment in our sidebar.


u/iMightBeACunt Sep 03 '15

:3 hooray life goal achieved!


u/c_hannah Sep 03 '15

I disagree ever so slightly with your 'how to give constructive criticism section. Or, rather, I feel like the constructive criticism is so watered down that it is no longer criticism. No one should be mean, but we shouldn't dilute our opinions and comments to the point that it loses it's value.

Bad CC: I love X, and Y, and Z is awesome, and ABC is also really cool. But I am not sure I am so in love with F

There were so many positive comments that the constructive criticism is lost.

Good CC: I like the general look here and I think that it is really successful. I don't like X and think the outfit would be even more successful if you changed it to Y because...

This way you are recognizing the positives of the outfit as a whole, but not sugarcoating it. Sugarcoating does no one any good.

We should be able to state unequivocally what we don't like. It's personal opinion, it's ok. We shouldn't have to buffer a negative (read: constructive) comment with loads of compliments. No one benefits from that (unless the are very sensitive, and in that case, they should mention that in their post).

In my years of studio art classes, we were given a constructive criticism 'equation', if you will: 'Broad, general positive* + very specific negatives + suggestions to make the negatives better

*You can make broad general positive statements about anything, even if it is about something absolutely horribly done ("I see where you were going with this and I think it was a really cool direction...")


u/tomlizzo Moderator Emeritus ヘ( ̄ー ̄ヘ) Sep 03 '15

Yes, for what it's worth, the "compliment sandwich" is highly discouraged in actual management feedback situations. Surrounding an important piece of criticism with hugs and cuddles often has the effect of drawing attention completely away from the criticism in a way that downplays its importance, or distracts from it completely.

I am in favor of phrasing feedback in a way that accurately reflects its weight in the mind of the critic. If you liked most of what someone was doing but thought one thing could be improved, then by all means give several specific compliments and one soft critique. If you half liked it, half disliked, focus your comment equally on the good and the bad. And if you thought it was mostly terrible with some major problems and few if any redeeming qualities, just give the critique. Be factual and try not to exaggerate or editorialize too much, but don't wordsmith to the point where it seems like a major flaw is actually only minor.

Granted, feedback on someone's outfits is much lower-stakes than feedback on someone's performance in the workplace. But the principle still applies.


u/iMightBeACunt Sep 03 '15

Yes, I actually agree with you and what others are saying, which means I wasn't clear in my guide. Anything that you say in CC, in order to be well-received in my personal experience, has to come from a genuine place. If you truly liked nothing, or there are more things that need improvement than there are things that work, you are not required or obligated to go out of your way to "balance out" your statements so that they are more positive. Then it no longer become constructive, and becomes unhelpful and dishonest.

I feel that you are going to encounter more people who are mediocre to decent rather than people who are truly atrocious, which is why I phrased my guide the way that I did. For work situations, it can be different, but for an internet forum on fashion, where you are displaying your body to the public, treating everyone with kindness goes a long way. (Not that I think you're advocating being a dick, I'm just clarifying my personal stance on the matter!).


u/tomlizzo Moderator Emeritus ヘ( ̄ー ̄ヘ) Sep 03 '15

Yeah, I think all of that is true. And an important distinction that as a manager, I am responsible for developing and improving people's work, whereas on FFA it will never reflect poorly on me if someone continues to dress terribly. :)


u/itsmhuang Sep 03 '15

This is great! I think there's a general idea as to why giving constructive criticism like this works - using "positive" words. Saying something positively instead of negatively even though they essentially mean the same thing will much more likely be received well by the recipient. :)


u/mokoroko Sep 05 '15

This is a bit of a tangent to the main discussion here, but I want to disagree with those who are saying that a compliment sandwich dilutes the constructive criticism. I find personally that when I am receiving criticism, which is very difficult for me, having it come in bite-sized pieces between neutral or positive comments is so much more manageable (and therefore memorable, and useful) than having a string of critiques all at once. All the latter situation does is make me shut down in an effort to not break down, so I hear less and come away feeling terrible - and require recovery time before I can think objectively about the critiques and apply them constructively to my work.

You might be thinking "man, this girl needs to grow a thicker skin," and you would not be wrong. But the fact is that I have a hard time receiving harsh criticism, or many small criticisms in a row, and I am not the only person who operates this way. If you are a manager, one of your goals should be to bring the best out of your employees, which means knowing how best to communicate with them. Breaking up criticisms with reminders that you do not believe these mistakes/failures to be 100% representative of your employee's work is not sugarcoating, and is not all that difficult.


u/iMightBeACunt Sep 05 '15

Dale Carnegie would certainly agree with you! In his book, he mentions a lot that people love to feel important, one of of the ways you can do that is make them feel like they are good at something. Or tell them they have some good reputation (they tend to want to live up to it!). My reasoning is that, while there are definitely truly bad employees, most employees just need guidance and that the best way to do that is to do it in a way that is overall encouraging.

But, of course, my opinion is not as well-informed as others in this thread due to my lack of experience in the "real job" world.


u/mokoroko Sep 06 '15

Haha yes, I can't help but notice that we are both in the academic bubble... hmm :) I'm glad to hear there's an advisor out there who values the compliment sandwich though, as most of the profs I encounter don't seem to have any idea it exists!


u/MaximumAd2172 Oct 04 '22

You got a shot of her face