critiquing "critical feedback"

from evy's notebook

critical / ˈkridək(ə)l / adjective

1. expressing adverse or disapproving comments or judgments: I was very critical of the previous regime

2. expressing or involving an analysis of the merits and faults of a work of literature, music, or art; involving the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement: professors often find it difficult to encourage critical thinking amongst their students

Critical feedback gets many names: "negative" feedback, "constructive" criticism, "something you could improve on". This is where the growth value is advertised, as opposed to "positive" feedback, which is the fluffy stuff that helps someone feel better about themself. Telling someone what's appreciated about them has a lot of benefits, warm and fuzzy feelings definitely being one of them, but I wish people were more critical in their "positive" feedback - by which I mean I wish the binary of "positive" and "critical" feedback could be blurred, and I wish people put more thoughtful analysis (the second definition above) into their complements because I believe a lot of opportunity for growth exists in this analysis.

As an example, imagine I write a poem and there's a line you like in it. After some thought, you realize you like it largely because of the way I conjugated a verb. You tell me this, and realize I did it completely unintentionally, and after some exploration and analysis together we figure out both why it sounds nice, and also when it might be effective for me to try doing this again.

Or maybe there's something I'm already good at that I could use in a more strategic way. Which of my goals can I better achieve with skills I already have but didn't realize were relevant? Hearing feedback and guidance of this sort is often way more useful than learning about "things I'm not good at that I could get better at."

Sometimes it's useful to work to get better at things we're bad at, but sometimes it's not. It can be really hard to build skills that we're not comfortable with, and sometimes it makes more sense to focus on how to thoughtfully use the skills that we know well and do well. And when we choose invest energy into getting better at gaps in our skills, I think it's often useful to pick skills that complement what we're already pretty good at.

I wonder how "critical" ended up meaning both disapproval and analysis, but I don't like how closely they're tied together. The things we're "good" and "bad" at aren't isolated from each other, and I wish more people acknowledged how often the judgements we make in these categories are related, and how often critical and constructive analysis of our strengths leads to some of the most satisfying self-improvement.