If You Have to Correct, Be Decent About It

Correction with graceThree years ago, I changed departments within my company. I accepted the new assignment, welcoming the chance for advancement as well the challenge of learning a new skill set. I’ve learned a lot in the past three years.

I work in Information Technology. IT is a field that is characterized by regular innovation and obsolescence, multiple problem-solving opportunities and, if done well, precision. I work in the Quality Assurance department of our company. It is the task of my very able colleagues and I to assure that the product we deliver to our clients (Fortune 500 companies and others) is of the highest quality and functions flawlessly. In a word, our work has to be perfect. Or as close to perfect as is humanly possible.

This means that the regular requirement of my job involves inspecting the work of my colleagues and calling them over to my desk to go over what they’ve submitted, praising wherever possible, but also pointing out errors and mistakes, how to correct them and improve the overall quality of their work.

We have an office full of winsome and intelligent professionals who take their work very seriously and are sensitive to any shortcomings in what they produce. I’ve watched as some of them look crestfallen —furrowed brow and all—when I’ve brought an error to their attention. I try not to be calloused when dealing with people. Ask those who know me. They’ll tell you. Especially when I have to look in the eyes of the one I am critiquing. I fall all over myself, feeling bad that I have to take some sunshine out of their day.

Real correction is not a picnic. Real, meaning when you have to look square in the eyes of someone and smell their perfume, cologne or even their breath.

I must tell you that this has given me an entirely different perspective on the often irresponsible practice of criticizing another human being who doesn’t happen to be in the same room, out of earshot and eye contact.

I try to critique those for whom I’m responsible with as much grace as is humanly possible. I have to look them in the eye when I do it. It’s really easy to be a critic when those who are the target of your criticisms will never be within breathing distance. That’s like shooting fish in a pail. No challenge. No intelligence needed. And often, given the nature of the criticisms, no intelligence involved at any stage.

Maybe this should be the benchmark for our often glib and sloppy criticisms of people and stuff. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21) the Scriptures inform us. Can you look the person in the eye? Would you….?

Think about it: How quickly would I criticize someone (a politician, a performing artist, a minister, a member of my circle) if I was required look them in the eye when critiquing? Just like I have to do each day with my co-workers. I’ve found that showing genuine appreciation wherever possible creates life. In others and in me. And it makes the corrections a lot more palatable.

As a man named Paul once wrote, “…speak the truth in love.”

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Up For Inspection?

InspectionOkay, confession time.  I don’t like being criticized or critiqued.  I am not fond of being vetted and graded.  I get nervy and irritated when someone says, “I’m sorry but your work is not acceptable.”  I resist accountability.  Have your address yet?

At work today, a number of my colleagues and I had a discussion about review, critique, inspection, modification, correction, editing and the like.  We applied this to a number of areas: writing, self and home education, our IT work and our values and stated beliefs.

While critique and inspection is not pleasant–and not meant to be–it is, however, invaluable.  We are all imperfect.  We have blind spots.  We miss stuff we should have noticed and caught.  It takes a person with a love of truth and reality and not a little courage to actively seek out feedback on what they’re doing and becoming in order to improve and avoid hurting on the one hand and seeking to help on the other.

How about you?  Do you resent criticism of your work (and by that, I don’t mean ad hominem jabs designed to hurt rather than correct)?  The most foolish people I’ve ever met are those who actively avoid and stifle any kind of evaluation of their actions and character.  I’ve done it myself.  After all, my business is my business, right?

Well, not exactly.  Your business, your doings, and your character affect those in your orbit.  And others.  Challenge for today:  See critique and evaluation not as monsters set on a mission of destruction but friends who will help you get where you REALLY want to go.

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Criticism and Graciousness

criticismTwo years ago, I changed positions within my company.  I welcomed the chance for advancement as well the challenge of learning a new skill set.  I’ve been at this for about twenty-three months now.

I work in Information Technology.  IT is a field that is characterized by regular innovation and obsolescence, multiple problem-solving opportunities and, if done well, precision.  I work in the Quality Assurance department of our company.  It is the task of my very able colleagues and I to assure that the product we deliver to our clients (Fortune 500 companies and others) is of the highest quality and functions flawlessly.  In a word, our work has to be perfect.  Or as close to perfect as is humanly possible.

This means that a regular requirement of my job involves me inspecting the work—essentially, architectural drawings of computer equipment–of my colleagues and calling them over to my desk to go over what they’ve submitted, praising wherever possible, but also pointing out errors and mistakes, how to correct them and improve the overall quality of their work.

We have an office full of winsome and intelligent professionals who take their work very seriously and are sensitive to any shortcomings in what they produce.  I’ve watched as some of them look crestfallen—furrowed brow and all—when I’ve brought an error to their attention.  I try not to be calloused when dealing with people.  Ask those who know me.  They’ll tell you.  Especially when I have to look in the eyes of the one I am critiquing.  I fall all over myself, feeling bad that I have to take some sunshine out of their day.

Real correction is not a picnic.  Real, meaning when you have to look square in the eyes of someone and smell their perfume, cologne or even their breath.

I must tell you that this has given me an entirely different perspective on the often irresponsible practice of criticizing another human being who doesn’t happen to be in the same room, out of earshot and eye contact.  A practice, unfortunately, that comes easy to human beings.  And easy to me.

I try to critique those for whom I’m responsible with as much grace as is humanly possible.  I have to look them in the eye when I do it.  It’s really easy to be a critic when those who are the target of your criticisms will never be within breathing distance.  That’s like shooting fish in a pail.  No challenge.  No intelligence needed.  And often, given the nature of the criticisms, no intelligence involved at any stage.

Maybe this should be the benchmark for our often glib and sloppy criticisms of people and stuff.  “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” says a proverb from the Bible (Proverbs 18:21).  Can you look the person in the eye? Would you…?  How quickly would we criticize someone (a politician, a performing artist, a minister, a member of my circle) if we were required be in the same room when giving a critique of their work?  Just like I have to do each day with my co-workers.

I’ve found that showing genuine appreciation wherever possible creates life.  In others and in me.  And it makes the corrections a whole lot more palatable.  If you must critique and correct, do so with grace, tact and love.

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Criticism and Empathy

Last August, I was given the opportunity to change positions within my company.  I accepted, welcoming the chance for advancement as well the challenge of learning a new skill set.  I’ve been at this new task about ten months now.

I work in Information Technology.  IT is a field that is characterized by regular innovation and obsolescence, multiple problem-solving opportunities and, if done well, precision.  I now work in the Quality Assurance department of our company.  It is the task of my very able colleagues and I to assure that the product we deliver to our clients (Fortune 500 companies and others) is of the highest quality and functions flawlessly.  In a word, our work has to be perfect.  Or as close to perfect as is humanly possible.

This means that a regular requirement of my job involves me inspecting the work of my colleagues and calling them over to my desk to go over what they’ve submitted, praising wherever possible, but also pointing out errors and mistakes, how to correct them and improve the overall quality of their work.

We have an office full of winsome and intelligent professionals who take their work very seriously and are sensitive to any shortcomings in what they produce.  I’ve watched as some of them look crestfallen—furrowed brow and all—when I’ve brought an error to their attention.  I try not to be calloused when dealing with people.  Ask those who know me.  They’ll tell you.  Especially when I have to look in the eyes of the one I am critiquing.  I fall all over myself, feeling bad that I have to take some sunshine out of their day.

Real correction is not a picnic.  Real, meaning when you have to look square in the eyes of someone and smell their perfume, cologne or even their breath.

I must tell you that this has given me an entirely different perspective on the often irresponsible practice of criticizing another human being who doesn’t happen to be in the same room, out of earshot and eye contact.  A practice, unfortunately, that comes easy to human beings.  And easy to me.

I try to critique those for whom I’m responsible with as much grace as is humanly possible.  I have to look them in the eye when I do it.  It’s really easy to be a critic when those who are the target of your criticisms will never be within breathing distance.  That’s like shooting fish in a pail.  No challenge.  No intelligence needed.  And often, given the nature of the criticisms, no intelligence involved at any stage.

Maybe this should be the benchmark for our often glib and sloppy criticisms of people and stuff.  “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21) the Scriptures inform us.  Can you look the person in the eye? Would you…?  How quickly would we criticize someone (a politician, a performing artist, a minister, a member of my circle) if we were required be in the same room when giving a critique of their work?  Just like I have to do each day with my co-workers.

I’ve found that showing genuine appreciation wherever possible creates life.  In others and in me.  And it makes the corrections a whole lot more palatable.  I think there’s a reason Paul the apostle told us to “speak the truth in love.”

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The Relative Value of Praise and Criticism

“The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” (Proverbs 29:25)

One receives inspirations at the oddest times.  This afternoon, while listening to the fine soundtrack to the film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (Stephen Warbeck), I had a moment of understanding.  It has to do with desire for praise and fear of disapproval.

We tend to desire the approval of people we look up to and to fear the disapproval of the same.  Some of this is normal and healthy, a matter of common sense.  Most every child desires to please his parents.  Spouses yearn for the approbation of their spouses.  Employees want their bosses to be pleased with them and fear arousing their ire due to poor performance.

All well and good.

There are many of us, however, who have an inordinate and unhealthy desire to please everybody.  We fear being “on the outs” with people–the more significant, the deeper the fear.  Corollary, we yield to the corresponding urge to bend over backwards to please.

We do this because of the valuation we’ve given to human applause or criticism.  And it trips us up.  As the Proverb says, it brings a snare.

If I had Confederate currency lying around or piles of Monopoly money in my home, I would not be too upset if someone took it.  Why?  Because these things have little or no value.  Their gain or loss is of little moment.  It’s a different story when someone picks my pocket.  You get the idea.

John Bevere once wrote, “If you desire the praise of man, you will fear man.  If you fear man, you will serve him–for you will serve what you fear.”

One day we will all be called upon to account for our lives to God, our Creator.  At that sublime and terrifying moment, only one thing will matter:  Did I please Him and have His approval?

In Isaiah 8:13, we are told to let God—not man—be our fear and our dread.  That is sound medicine.  Human beings are weak and fragile.  That is our lot as a result of 1) being created beings and 2) the fall of man in the Garden.   It is because of this precarious state of things that we destroy ourselves trying to make everybody like us.

What to do?

Remember, if you don’t get in the habit of drinking the Kool-Aid of praise and applause, you’re less likely to dread their loss.  You will ultimately answer to One, not seven billion.

It’s the sense of perspective that makes all the difference in the world.  Go and do the right thing and don’t fear man.  As my wife reminds me over and over again:

“We’re just people.  We poop.  We pee.  We die.”

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Looking In the Eyes Of Those We Criticize

Recently, I was given the opportunity to change positions within my company.  I accepted, welcoming the chance for advancement as well the challenge of learning a new skill set.  I’ve been at this new task a couple of months now.

I work in Information Technology.  IT is a field that is characterized by regular innovation and obsolescence, multiple problem-solving opportunities and, if done well, precision.  I now work in the Quality Assurance department of our company.  It is the task of my very able colleagues and I to assure that the product we deliver to our clients (Fortune 500 companies and others) is of the highest quality and functions flawlessly.  In a word, our work has to be perfect.  Or as close to perfect as is humanly possible.

This means that a regular requirement of my job involves me inspecting the work of my colleagues and calling them over to my desk to go over what they’ve submitted, praising wherever possible, but also pointing out errors and mistakes, how to correct them and improve the overall quality of their work.

We have an office full of winsome and intelligent professionals who take their work very seriously and are sensitive to any shortcomings in what they produce.  I’ve watched as some of them look crestfallen—furrowed brow and all—when I’ve brought an error to their attention.  I try not to be calloused when dealing with people.  Ask those who know me.  They’ll tell you.  Especially when I have to look in the eyes of the one I am critiquing.  I fall all over myself, feeling bad that I have to take some sunshine out of their day.

Real correction is not a picnic.  Real, meaning when you have to look square in the eyes of someone and smell their perfume, cologne or even their breath.

I must tell you that this has given me an entirely different perspective on the often irresponsible practice of criticizing another human being who doesn’t happen to be in the same room, out of earshot and eye contact.  A practice, unfortunately, that comes easy to human beings.  And easy to me.

I try to critique those for whom I’m responsible with as much grace as is humanly possible.  I have to look them in the eye when I do it.  It’s really easy to be a critic when those who are the target of your criticisms will never be within breathing distance.  That’s like shooting fish in a pail.  No challenge.  No intelligence needed.  And often, given the nature of the criticisms, no intelligence involved at any stage.

Maybe this should be the benchmark for our often glib and sloppy criticisms of people and stuff.  “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21) the Scriptures inform us.  Can you look the person in the eye? Would you…?  How quickly would we criticize someone (a politician, a performing artist, a minister, a member of my circle) if we were required be in the same room when giving a critique of their work?  Just like I have to do each day with my co-workers.

I’ve found that showing genuine appreciation wherever possible creates life.  In others and in me.  And it makes the corrections a whole lot more palatable.  I think there’s a reason Paul the apostle told us to “speak the truth in love.”