Courage to Correct or be Corrected “I thought about calling you, last night,” a friend shared. “My co-technicians met for dinner and as usual I looked forward to seeing everyone. But as the evening progressed the conversation took an unusual nose-dive into gossiping about co-workers which made me very uncomfortable. I merely endured the evening. It was a relief to get home but I was so emotionally exhausted and upset, I had trouble going to sleep. What would you have advised?”
I venture that many of you can identify with my friend’s dilemma. We’ve all been subjected to conversations that have become explosive, too personal or touch on subjects—often involving religion or politics—that incite anger, hurt and offence. There is a positive way to redirect destructive dialogue. As soon as you question the tenor of a conversation--trust your vibes/feelings--get the floor and speak up quickly before friendships are marred.
“For instance, you could have said, ‘Excuse me girls, but I have something to say. I’m disappointed with the conversation and I came tonight to have a good time. I suggest that we spend the rest of the evening sharing about our families and on-going projects’. Since they all know you are quiet, they would have been a bit surprised with your assertiveness. You would have initially felt a bit nervous but your strong motivation would have given you confidence. I guarantee that silence would have prevailed, mouths dropped open and a few eyes rolled, but it would have worked.”
Correct: When an adult correction is obviously due and you sense that you are the only one who’s bothered, it requires a lot of courage to ‘stand’ up and kindly speak your piece, especially if you’re an Introverted Feeler, like my friend. Feelers who want harmony at any cost have to garner-up assertiveness when they intend to say something that might boomerang. They have to take a deep breath, say what needs to be said, and not worry about any ensuing guilt feelings.
My suggestion to Extroverts is to intentionally be aware of Introverts who often have something worthy, if not profound, to add if they’re given an opening but are hesitant to ‘jump-in’ on a turning rope. For former playground rope-jumpers, you’ll recall the skill of jumping in, maintaining the rhythm of the rapidly turning rope. Introverts wait until there is a silent spot before they speak and rarely interrupt.
Naturally, it’s a little easier for Extroverted Feelers to confidently tackle an adult correction except for possibility of disrupting harmony. But Head-logic Thinkers are well-equipped to deal with negative situations with ease because they cover the topic, think through the ordeal and forget about it.
When correcting young children, it’s not that difficult to gather up confidence and be consistent. The important component is using non-offensive ‘I’ statements, even with toddlers. Kids will come out with “You’re not my boss”, to which you say, “I’m not your major boss, but your mom put me in charge of you today.” But, as kids get older, entering ‘correction corner’ becomes more difficult. Teenagers regularly challenge an authority figure with “You don’t understand my side of the story and I disagree that I need correcting.” That’s when it’s best for both parents to say, “We say yes, no, or agree that…”
Be Corrected: When the tables are turned and we are the one being corrected, whether at work, a class meeting, family gathering, or by letter, we need to digest (listen) to their complaint. This reminds me of a correction hurled at me by a Deacon’s wife one Sunday after church. “You are ruining our teenagers”, she accused, which nearly knocked me off my feet. I taught the youth Sunday School class which had attracted neighborhood youth--our goal as a growing church. “The street kids are a bad influence”, she continued. “We shouldn’t mix them with our children.” So, I calmly said. “Thank you for your concern; I’ll give it some thought.” However, I wasn’t calm.
I hurried home and immediately spent some time in prayer asking the Lord to help me understand why she jumped on me and asked for enabling to find some positive benefit as a result. Evidently, her criticism was not based on facts but fear that her two older youth who were members of the class, would be attracted to date one of community youth. I asked the Lord to help me love her unconditionally and for wisdom as I followed up with her.
Unknown to us, as we talked, a young mother who was in my Wednesday evening class, on her way out another door, stopped when she overheard the conversation. She thanked me later saying, ‘When I heard her talk to you so mean-like I just listened. Thank you for showing me how to handle a criticism”. That was one of the positives I was hoping for.
We all drop the ball at times—have blind spots--and benefit when someone courageously speaks up and brings a matter to our attention. Accepting constructive criticism requires mental work deserving of serious consideration.
I’m repeating the account when Jim encountered correction in front of his congregation. One Sunday, he had an emergency of some kind during Sunday School and was delayed until after sermon-time arrived. The associate pastor began to fill in extemporaneously until Jim finally arrived. When Jim went up on the platform and the associate said “Do you want to preach?” to which Jim said, “Of course”. So, the associate sat down. Jim had no way of knowing that the congregation had gotten caught up with what the associate was saying and were a bit shocked when Jim took over. He preached his sermon and when the invitation was given, our close friend, Carolyn went down the aisle. I sensed she was on a special mission. She whispered to Jim “Fix it, Jim, the congregation is upset that you interrupted Mike.” What courage this INFJ exemplified. Jim gladly accepted her correction and apologized to the associate and to the congregation for not picking up on what was going on. His humble response was exemplary to all who witnessed it.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Heb. 12:11
Constructive criticism is excellent but still engenders shock. When someone says “I’m saying this for your own good”, we kind of tense up for the verdict. If the motivation of the person is absolutely for our good, that helps us to grow. Our motive must be “I’m saying this because I like you and want to help you.”
The kisses of an enemy may be profuse, but faithful are the wounds of a friend. Prov. 27:6
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Prov. 27:17
Brethren, if someone is caught in a sin (missing the mark) you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
Not many want to claim being spiritual, but when you are strongly impressed--like Carolyn was—to speak to another—even her pastor--about a lack of insight, questionable behavior or inappropriate words, doing so is your personal calling.
Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious… Ecc.10:12
I welcome your comments and suggestions.