You didn't cut the grass properly. Or, Why did you fold the towels that way? How many times have we heard these things (supposed criticism) from a family member, a supervisor, or a well-meaning friend? Upon hearing our failures, we probably began mumbling and grumbling about the person's words and meanness. Criticism from others can be taken a number of ways and in our culture, we have seen criticism largely taken as hate. The expression, "Haters gonna hate!" has taken over the steering wheel of discourse and disallows anyone to correct or question another person's actions or motives.
Conversely, it is possible that instruction from another actually might be good advice and stuff we need to consider and internalize so we can improve.
(PHOTO: Jon Acuff, Orange Tour leadership training event at LCBC, Manheim, PA: 9/27/16)
I remember watching an episode of NCIS where Gibbs ended the show by writing Rule #51 on a card, "Sometimes You're Wrong." Gibbs, the headstrong leader of the team, rarely makes mistakes and never apologizes when he does. "It's a sign of weakness!" In this episode, he had failed in a couple ways that led to a great deal of pain and sorrow. Healing came to Gibbs when he realized that he was wrong and if he had listened to the advice of others it would have led to a better outcome.
Perhaps the most important thing I have learned so far in leadership is that sometimes I am wrong. Being able to hear instructive criticism from another person needs to be processed and one needs to think through the words and intention of the person sharing.
Jon Acuff, author and leadership guru, spoke at our leadership training event the other day and offered us the quote pictured here. "You Don't Get Better If You Confuse Feedback With Hate."
Obviously, the way a person talks to you, the tone and volume of their voice are indicators of their intentions. Yelling, "You're Doing It Wrong!" isn't the best way to approach another person's motives and work. However, there are productive ways to enter into a mutual conversation that shapes and develops effectiveness in each other.
We need to be open to hear what others are saying or asking. If we want to get better at whatever we are doing or whatever we want to be when we grow up, then listening to instruction and critical analysis is important. Overreacting and immediately dismissing instruction as mean-spirited or hateful tends to cut off life, health, and growth.
As a pastoral leader, husband, and father, I always strive to get better in my leadership. I don't always get it right and I need to be open to listen to instruction from others. When someone is holding me accountable it does not immediately mean they hate me or are trying to destroy me. I can think of hundreds of times I have done a task or presented a concept and have had others question my procedure or delivery. In many of those events, I was jumping into the task with little or no thought. I then questioned their analysis of my actions and motives. The major shift for me has been in pausing to evaluate their instruction and comparing it to my actions. It has been tough to do but when I have been willing to listen to them I have been improved or made better.
How about you, do you weigh instruction from others carefully and thoughtfully? Or, do you dismiss their questions and critical analysis as something unnecessary and mean? Do you strive to become a better person, mother/father, worker, student, or other life focus? I hope so. I also hope and prayer you and I continue to embrace the words of others and see if maybe, just maybe, they might be right. Maybe their suggestion will produce a better result. Coming to this conclusion will usually mean that we will have to admit at some level that "sometimes, we're wrong."