We've been building our house ourselves. There have been contractors who have done work for us in the past, but you can tell the type of work they do. Some of it was so bad, my husband had to tear some of it out and re-do it. Others were dishonest by trying to hedge in future work. One contractor loaded a bunch of drywall into our upstairs after my hubby told him he would have someone else doing drywall later down the road. So the man put up the outside wall, trapping us with drywall we never asked for. Of course, it was included in our bill! Yet others boasted about how great their work was, then proceeded to cheat by doing less than agreed while charging for what they were supposed to do, not what they actually did. Our words can be like those contractors.The power of our words on others can do incredible things. They can build world leaders or the can dig a grave for someone's soul. Of course, what we put into people's lives comes back to either haunt us or bless us.
Challenge others to do their best.
When we want to see someone succeed in an area where the potential to excel is there, should we critically pick apart what they did wrong or build up the areas where they do well without the criticism? When my son was little. His little ADD/HD brain took him to places that got him into trouble often. Just when I was ready to praise him for something he did well, he did something that got him into trouble immediately afterward. It took a while before I figured out that I needed to praise him right away BEFORE he had a chance to get into trouble.
I discovered something really cool called the Criticism Sandwich. The Criticism Sandwich looks like this: "What a great way you worded your story! You might want to run spelling/grammar check before you turn it in. There were a couple of misspelled words I noticed. I really enjoyed the way you make your characters seem so real with your description!" Give a positive word that is real, find one glaring problem with the change suggestion, then add another positive you discovered about what the person did. You will find this person work harder to do their very best because you cared enough to share your thoughts with them in a Sandwich.
Give honest praise for what you see someone do well.
Just like the contractor who tried to hedge his bets for future work, flattery serves only to cause people to not trust what you say. Flattery looks like this: "Oh, I love your hair! It really goes well with your dress, " when you secretly hate the hair and the dress! It also may not have anything to do with what you really want to encourage someone to improve. Maybe you really like the necklace, but you want the person to consider choosing more wisely with their hair and clothing: " Where did you get that necklace? It is beautiful! I like how it makes your eyes sparkle." Then instead of tackling what you believe to be their poor choice in hair and clothes, maybe ask them to help you with your choices. You can guide them better if you share why you pick what you do. Who knows? You might find a new look for yourself. Better yet, they will eventually want to imitate you.
Criticize carefully, with the goal of helping others improve.
This flows with the Criticism Sandwich. When you offer a correction, avoid hurtful comments with your criticism no matter how bad the issue might look to you. After all, the last thing you want to do is give this person a reason to sit in a counselor's office! Much like the contractor who did such bad work that my husband had to redo it, harsh criticism has to be redone with Truth being planted in place of the poor self-esteem we created. Avoid attacking character. Be to the point in general terms, then give your opinion for improvements specifically giving one or two examples. Oftentimes, people are unable to see the problem because their brains cover over the issue. Sometimes, people are blinded because they don't know anything other than what you see. Be kind. Be truthful. Be tactful. Be precise.
You will hear what you say come back to you.
Learn to ask for input from others. Be specific about what you want them to give you in their feedback. But be ready for anything! Sometimes a flood gate opens wide when you give someone the opportunity to give you their opinion. They may not be that gracious with what they say, so look for the nugget of truth in the "stuff" of what they say. Consider the source and it will help when someone isn't so kind.
Be open to hearing your words come back at you through those you have either built up or torn down. It has a boomerang effect. When we really listen to the people whose lives we influence, we will hear our own words through them. I was shocked at the truth of this thought when we tested our karate students several years ago. When they had to tell us about something they learned in class, a philosophy in self-defense, or a favorite Bible passage, we heard our "No Kill" policy, that our attackers are loved by Jesus, and we should be at peace with everyone as much as they will allow us. Those moments were proud and sobering at the same time.
The people we influence with our words are our grocery store associates, customer service representatives, receptionists, doctors, nurses, police, military personnel, business giants, and governmental leaders. What we teach them will be lived out through them. Our words will come back to us through others' words and actions. Be wise. Be grace-filled. Be the Love of Jesus to someone you know. You are building into someone's life. Build carefully.