Sadje has posed an interesting question. She writes, “When things aren’t going as you like them to, what is the better way to make people realize their error? Praise them in a positive way to make them realize their mistake or criticize their method?” And then she asks, “How do you handle such situations? Do you directly point out the flaw in the way they are doing something or go about it in a diplomatic way?”
My answer is that it depends upon the situation. Criticism may actually be better than praise. Of course, this is in the context of interactions between adults. Interactions with children are a whole different dynamic.
I believe that praising someone for doing an excellent job is great. But praising someone for doing something half-assed or not very well is not at all useful. False praise like that is not going to help a person improve or do better. It’s reinforcing mediocrity.
However, constructive criticism can help a person to see how to be better, more efficient, and/or more effective at whatever task they’re doing. That said, any criticism must be constructive. And if someone is to be subject to criticism, it’s important to criticize the act and not the person.
The bottom line, in my opinion, is that praise might be nice and you need to do some of it, but when it comes to improving someone’s skills, performance, or effectiveness, constructive criticism works best.