Most writers rely on story feedback in one way or another. Be it his/her momma, their best friend, or a spouse. For a lucky few, this is all the writer needs. For the rest of us, we should seek to broaden our scopes.
First, an aside.
There are several fantastic primers on the process of short story critiques. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I’m going to link them and encourage you to read them. After the links, I’ll add my thoughts.
How to Critique Fiction by Victor Crayne
When critiquing verbally in groups, I try to keep the following in mind:
1) The story/novel is the result of a person’s hard work and time. Hurt feelings are easier to come by when criticizing in front of other people.
2) Be sure to accentuate both positive and negative aspects of the story/novel.
3) In a group, be sure to do your fair share of critiquing for the group time spent on your own work. Keep in mind that critically evaluating others’ work will help improve your writing.
4) Your job is to provide feedback, not proofreader notes.
5) Always be respectful and professional.
When I lead critique sessions, I prefer letting each person have their say without input from the author (unless the author has a specific question to ask after the critique). Then when everybody is finished, the author can make commentary as to why the story/novel was written a certain way or manner.