I am a Toastmaster. In Toastmasters, there’s a catchphrase we use when evaluating someone’s speech: “Commend, Recommend & Commend.” Simply put, this means that while providing constructive criticism, it’s best to start with what was done right, recommend what could be done better and then commend again.

My friend Nazor (you can find her blogging here) has a catering gig. Often, she puts up pictures of plated food she’s served and I have been privileged to comment privately on her work, “throw in more color here, Nazor, change the angle of the picture there…”
Some days ago, I needed some pictures of plated food myself. I had been plating food for some years so I felt like an expert. I wore sweeping robes and glided into my kitchen, feeling very confident in my plating prowess. Several pictures later, and unable to get it quite right with the color blend and the picture angle, I packed the food away. I will do this another day, I thought to myself. It had been so easy for me to commend or recommend to Nazor, now it got down to me doing it myself and let’s just say the food has been eaten and no plating has taken place!

Isn’t that how it is with a lot of us?A friend starts a business, or writes a book or makes a hair product, or opens a boutique or releases an album. It’s so easy for us to say how it could have been done differently. It is so easy to say, sing the Soprano this way or change the background that way or organize the meeting that way.

Do it the Toastmasters way:
Commend: Be generous with your commendations. They did something, they actually attempted to do something. Commend them. Be their support system. Encourage them. Speak well of them. Magnify their strengths.
Recommend: Yep, as their support system, it’s okay to tell them areas they could improve on. But, be gracious. Don’t go into overdrive here. Be gracious in your recommendations, even if you think it is constructive criticism.
Commend (again): Be sure to end your observations with another commendation. It takes guts to stand up and be counted for doing anything. They released an imperfect podcast? Commend them anyway, they did it. They wrote a text with lots of typos? Commend them, at least they put their thoughts on paper. Some thoughts have remained thoughts for years without being written down.

Be there for your friends and family, be their strongest support system. There’s enough criticism in the world anyway and chances are, they already know what they did wrong. Celebrate what they did right. Who do you need to commend today? Get on the phone, send an email, send an SMS and cheer someone you know on, right now.

Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots – Frank A. Clark