Everybody screws up. Guaranteed.
Worse than making a mistake, though, is when others use that to their advantage – to try to establish social superiority, to “make you learn,” to get something out of you.
I’m an adult. 99.9% of the time I know I made a mistake, so it’s not particularly helpful to have someone rub it in.
But when you’re on the other end of the conversation, how do you rein in your desire to criticize? It seems to be a natural tendency that we all have.
The first step is to notice when you’re doing it. Often it looks like this:
- You did something I thought was dumb/foolish/mistaken/inappropriate. I feel the need to speak up and bring attention to that fact.
- I know I’m right, you did something I wouldn’t have done, therefore I conclude that you must be wrong.
- You made me or others uncomfortable. I want to fix that discomfort by talking more about it.
The second step is to stop and think. If you’ve started talking, find a way to pause and figure out whether you’re approaching it the right way. The pause gives you a little time for your rational mind to take control over your emotional response.
The third step is to move into private conversation. When criticism is given in public, the damage to someone’s reputation is magnified by the number of people who are hearing it. If this means that your criticism isn’t delivered until an hour later, fine. That also gives you more time to think through your approach.
And, finally, ask yourself this: What would be the most beneficial way of addressing it for the other individual, and for your relationship with them? Surprisingly often, the answer might be to do nothing, to let it slide.
What you’re doing is to help people to save face – to maintain their reputation and relationships with as many people as possible. You appreciate when people don’t damage your reputation; don’t be a party to doing that to others.
They’ll appreciate it.
by Carl Dierschow