The hardest news to convey is criticism. This is probably the hardest task in communications. However, criticism is vital in our struggle to improve. No one likes to hear bad news, but no one likes to give bad news either. So everyone struggles with how they are going to pass on this valuable, yet dreaded information.
The point is to remember that this is a communications process. The point is to communicate the idea and communicate it effectively. You want the person to understand what you are trying to say, so you have to communicate in simple terms. Do not try to water down your message because they may not get the point you are trying to make. In the end, you are not communicating effectively because they don't understand that something needs to change.
This brings us to the point of communications. The point of your criticism is to produce a desire effect. You want the individual to improve. So, when offering your criticism make sure it is specific. Do not say, "I hated your report." That communicates but it doesn't give the individual enough information to decide how to improve. "The format of your report made it hard to read." The last statement not only communicates, but also gives the individual information to help them improve the report. This is the result of effective communications.
While watering down your communications is not a great idea, you can offer honest compliments along with your criticism. For example, "Your report was okay." This is an example of watering down your criticism and it is neither honest nor clear. "Your report read great, but the format made it hard to read." This is a great example of a true compliment and a clear piece of criticism. However, when offering compliments you should always be honest.