It's interesting how we go to Writing classes and workshops, pay for pitch sessions, all for the opportunity to hear feedback, including criticism, on our work. Talking with someone about critiques, I realize I used to be too nit-picky. (My apologies to you who had to deal with my comma-Nazi former self.) I hope experience has taught me to criticize less and help more.
Here are the questions I posted on the WIFYR blog as ways to evaluate how well we do in the critique setting, both for giving and receiving advice on our writing.
Are you open to advice that can improve your work? As much as we'd all like to hear our work is wonderful, we only improve when we are willing to listen to ideas that make good writing better.
Do you listen rather than argue? When others critique you, stay quiet and give them a full chance to talk. You don't have to agree, but chances are you can still learn from their ideas. In a group critique, pay attention when it's another's turn. You can learn a lot from others' work, too.
When critiquing, are you positive and kind? Having your writing critiqued has been compared to holding your firstborn child up for scrutiny. The author or illustrator has put weeks, months, or years of effort into his/her work. Start by saying something good, and then tread gently.
Are your comments helpful and selective? Overly harsh critiques are a sure sign of the inexperienced writer. Learn to choose which comments to make, and don't rail on every flaw.
No one enjoys criticism, but these techniques can help turn your critique into a positive experience that can move you one footstep closer to publication.
I had to add that last bit because of the cool photo I got of my daughter's footprints (barefoot was not my idea) after it snowed.