maybe I’m a hardass but the crossroads I come across when critiquing someone’s work is if I should compliment to make them “feel better” or compliment because I personally feel it is something worth noting as a positive.
I am a difficult person to impress and will only “soften” the critique whenever the critique isn’t asked for but hasn’t discouraged it. If someone discourages critique I don’t leave any.
If someone invites/requests critiques and they happen to have work that is mediocre or (sadly) subpar, I feel it is dishonest to give them compliments short of the literal encouragement of “It’ll be hard, but I know you can do this with practice, I have confidence in your skills, you just need to work towards it” and resources that I feel would help them improve.
As for compliments given as incentive to improve from critique- I think this is potentially some of most flawed ways to deliver it, and should only be intentionally used when dealing with younger authors/artists.
I ultimately feel that an author’s/artist’s incentive for improvement should be for their improvement, not validation from others. And authors/artists do need to recognize that encouragement can come in forms beyond compliments (noting a work’s strengths is not necessarily synonymous with a compliment by the way).
But ultimately, if the creator feels like the critiquer doesn’t understand their work or supply helpful critique, it’s fully within their right to say/think that. If they choose to reject critique, my role as a critiquer for them ends there and it’s up to them to succeed or crash and burn. Free will and consequences and all that jazz.
That’s probably more of a wall than you bargained for, but I hope that addresses it.