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When to Encourage and When to Criticize

when to encourage

If you’re average and want to be a far better man, take a look at who’s surrounding you.

Are you in a group of friends that know when to encourage and when to criticize? Who build you up or tear you down? Company that comforts you when you need a helping hand or a group that’s selfishly concerned with their own ambitions? A group that presses you forward to your dreams or one that thinks you’re delusional and wrong?

Whether it’s in the workplace, in education, or in team sports, criticism is way over used when people want improvement. We might use constructive criticism to make it sound more valuable: “If you focus on these weaknesses, you’ll get better.”

But a new idea emerged in 2001 when the book StrengthsFindercame out. Rather than working on weaknesses, the authors advocate bolstering your strengths. Look at what you got in your arsenal. Focus on your strengths. How can you take them to the next level?

Encouragement is the most effective tool for advancement, and a skill we should get better at to develop our lives and relationships.

That’s not to say we should turn a blind eye to our weaknesses. “Negative feedback is important when we’re heading over a cliff to warn us that we’d really better stop doing something horrible or start doing something we’re not doing right away. But even the most well-intentioned criticism can rupture relationships and undermine self-confidence and initiative. It can change behavior, certainly, but it doesn’t cause people to put forth their best efforts.”

On the flip slide, positive encouragement motivates you to be the best you can be. When you have encouragement in your corner, you can go from good to great. Who encourages you to be a better man? Can you number those people on your hands?

Not only can compliments and encouragement help you in becoming a better man in athletics and business, it also can determine the success of your relationships.

The art of complimenting is backed by science. The ratio of compliments to critiques is surprisingly similar in both relationship and business success: “five positive comments for every negative one.” That’s a wake-up call. In evaluating others, we were once told to give two good things we noticed and one to improve upon. But, that’s not enough. We should compliment 5 times before every critique.

I can say I still have a lot of work to do in the area of complimenting. I’m a product of my environment much like you. The best way to ensure you become great at complimenting is to be in a group of friends who encourage each other. Here’s a good guideline coming from Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs…”

Good leaders encourage while bad leaders enforce. Good boyfriends and husbands know how to compliment.

Start with hope and notice the good things first. Encourage others in their pursuit of dreams and goals and you will be successful. As author Daniel Goleman writes,

A conversation that starts with a person’s dreams and hopes can lead to a learning path yielding that vision.”

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