Three Questions that Turn Self-Criticism into Powerful Tipping Points

Agree with people when they point out their own weaknesses.

Comfort may obstruct growth and solidify the status quo.


Say, “You know you’re right, you can be too critical,” when someone says they’re too critical. Don’t say, “Oh, it’s not that bad.”

When team members say they’re too critical, thank them for their transparency. “Thanks for saying that. I respect your transparency.”

3 questions:

Three questions that turn weaknesses into opportunities for growth. (I’ve inserted some common self-criticisms.)

  1. If you weren’t critical who would you be?
  2. If you were decisive, what would be true of you?
  3. If you connected with others better, what would you be doing?


When a team member says, “I’m too critical,” give an affirmation and ask a question.

Bob says, “I’m too critical.” You reply, “You know you’re right. You can be too critical. Thanks for saying that. If you weren’t too critical, who would you be?

Frank says, “I’m not decisive.” Say, “I agree. So, what would be true of you, if you were more decisive?

Mary says, “I’m not connecting well with others.” Take her seriously. “I hear your concern. If you connected well with others, what would you be doing?

Second questions:

Tipping points for growth happen after first responses. First answers are generally easy, obvious, and superficial. For example:

When you ask, “So, what would be true of you, if you were more decisive?”, they might provide the obvious response, “I’d be more decisive.”

The second time you ask the same question often produces better results. “But what would be true of YOU if you were more decisive?” Listen for responses that speak to their own attitudes and behaviors. “I would be…”

Growth requires honest, sometimes awkward reflection, not superficial answers.

How might leaders turn the self-criticism of others into tipping points for growth?