As the summer comes to a close, I am rereading the classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. This timeless text by Dale Carnegie has proven to be the roadmap for effective people leadership, since 1936.
“Never criticize” is the first principle of Carnegie’s fundamental techniques in handling people. Carnegie says “Criticism is futile. It puts a person on the defensive and makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous. It wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”
Carnegie’s distain of criticism has a biblical foundation. Paul in Romans 14:13 advises Let us no more criticize and blame and pass judgment on one another, but rather decide and endeavor never to put a stumbling block or an obstacle or a hindrance in the way of a brother.” (The Amplified Bible).
Carnegie’s chapter on criticism along with Paul’s words in Romans caused me to start praying, apologizing, explaining and changing the way I deal with people. However, as a long time criticizer, always quick to judge, and find fault, condemn or establish blame, breaking this long time habit has proven to be difficult; yet, not impossible.
This introspection has led me to develop three principals that will head-off my urge to be a critic. I present them in this post with the hope that they will do the same for you.
1. Smile A Lot
A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed. Proverbs 15:16
Criticism put you in a negative mood; causing you to be cynical about even the most subline things. Your attitude is your reality check. Smiling is a great way to keep yourself in a positive mood. In addition, research shows smiling can improve your health, stress level, and lowers your blood pressure which may lead to a healthier, longer life.
Try This Smile Test: Now, try to think of something negative; but, don’t lose your smile. Was it hard? When we smile our body is sending the rest of us a message that “Life Is Good!” Smiling will help us stay away from the negative feelings that can lead to criticism.
2. Encourage People
….encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1st Thessalonians 5:11
Life is tough. Situations, finances, and people can get us down. Encouragement in the form of a friendly word or compliment can turn a negative situation into a positive experience.
In my travels I have the opportunity to interact with service sector professionals in airports, hotels, rental car counters and restaurants. These are jobs that are ripe for criticism; because of poor service, high prices, and the general crummy things that can happen during travel. Carnegie and the Scriptures have transformed my thinking regarding these travel dilemmas. Instead of dwelling in the lowness of criticism inherited in these quandaries; I look for ways to encourage and support the professionals assigned to the task of finding solutions, and performing services while babysitting the traveling public. Think about it. The airline gate attendant has no control over the weather that has delayed the flight. However, on a daily basis they are confronted by disgusted passengers that respond as if they do. So, to prevent myself from being that guy, I pay attention to the gate attendant and their work ethics; that way, I can sincerely compliment and encourage them. Try it and you will be amazed by how your actions not only made the service professional feel better; but, it motivated them to perform better.
3. Look for Opportunities to Coach
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” Hebrews 10:24-25
By now, I am certain many of you have wondered if and when is criticism acceptable. “How can I point out things that people are doing wrong?” You do it by coaching. Theologian Robert E. Logan says the goal of coaching is to help someone succeed. And what is success? Logan defines it as finding out what God wants you to do and then, do it. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Finally, Logan reminds us that a person’s success is directly tied to finding out what works God has prepared for them.
So, how do I coach someone? The best coaches only offer their advice to those who have asked for it; and those that have given permission to receive it. The Bible has many examples of great coaching:
- Barnabas and Paul
- Paul and Timothy
- Ruth and Naomi
- Boaz and Ruth
We can help people succeed by offering our wisdom, experience, and knowledge; which, is much more powerful and engaging than simply, criticizing.
Jesus Never Criticized. He Coached and Loved
Jesus is the ultimate coach. He was asked by God to coach man. Part of his coaching was to be born on earth in a humble manner. Jesus asked his disciples to follow him; while he coached them and prepared them for God’s work. He coached the masses by healing the sick. He coaches us with His love when we are downtrodden. His parables were teachings by way of coaching. Jesus never criticized us; even when he hung on the cross. God shows us through Jesus that the difference between criticism and coaching is love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
Jesus did not die on the cross so we could criticize each other. Jesus died for us to live our lives abundantly. He wants us to have a cheerful face and be encouraging one another. We should build up one another with positive coaching and love. People who live an abundant life should know how to win friends and influence people not for themselves, but for the kingdom of God. Because the people of God never criticize!