There are times when we hurt. A surgeon’s scalpel never feels pleasant, but we endure it because we know the good that will come.
When the time arrives that I have to point out something that’s going to be difficult for you to swallow, how I approach you makes a big difference in whether or not you will be able to hear my concern.
Thom Ranier wrote about what makes a “good critic.” Here are the things he noticed about someone who recently criticized him in a helpful way.
- He had no pattern of having a critical spirit. If most of my interactions with you are negative, even if I’m right, you won’t listen to me. Be an encourager before being a rebuke.
- He prayed before he criticized. Before you approach someone, bring the problem to God. Make sure it’s something that matters. If you can’t pray it, you shouldn’t say it.
- He communicated concern without anger. If you’re mad, I’m more likely to get defensive. It is okay to be passionate, but not cruel.
- He avoided any ad hominem attacks. Telling me I’m stupid rarely keeps me from making dumb decisions. Attack the problem, not the person.
- He asked for my perspective. Sometimes we treat people like they’ve never given any thought to what we disagree with them about. That might be true—but it might not. It’s always better to ask than assume.
- He listened to me. And not just so that he could hear better how to correct me. Listening is the most important step in communication.
- He was humble. Nobody likes a know-it-all. Little is more humbling than true humility!
When you offer a critique—whether it is of your wife’s new dress, the song leader’s song, or the neighbor’s barking dog, I think these principles will help us all be more helpful when we try to “speak the truth in love.”