When speaking to audiences, I often talk about the importance of being an encourager rather than a discourager. Granted, constructive criticism and wise concern have their place. I’m not saying we ought to be some sort of “Yes” people who always agree with everyone about everything with disingenuous flattery. A true encourager is not only uplifting, but she is also honest, sincere and specific with her comments. She uses her words to help build up and lead others in the direction of their best interest. An encourager is looking out for the good of the other individual and focusing on the possibilities instead of hunting and pecking at what could go wrong and zapping the hope right out of a person. A wise encourager looks with discernment for the solid stepping stones to help a person walk forward into the future, without giving false hope or unrealistic expectations.
Let’s use our opportunities to critique with a judicious sense of caution. How do you know when it is the right time to share a concern or a dissenting opinion? The best way to discern if your criticism is worth voicing is to ask yourself, “Will my comments essentially be helpful to the betterment of the individual and the situation?” Constructive criticism possesses at its very core a desire to create positive change, building others up rather than tearing them down. Bottom line, we must look at our motivation before we spill out a negative appraisals or derogatory comments. Jealousy, envy and rivalry are often the ugly, hidden motivations of a critical spirit. The queen of critique can harm hearts, reputations and opportunities when she spews her poisonous venom. May God help each one of us examine the deep and hidden motives in our hearts and take the log out of our own eye before trying to remove the splinter from someone else’s.
Worries, fears and focusing on the negative outcomes can also quickly turn us into Debbie Downers and Nancy Negatives. These women tend to cause defeat in someone’s life before the game even starts because they feel it is their duty to save people from making mistakes or going down difficult roads. But what if we let people follow their dreams and make a few mistakes in the process? Then haven’t they learned and grown in the process? Let’s not be a discouraging voice just because we are afraid of what may happen. Yes, there is a delicate balance between helping someone see the potholes and discouraging their dreams all together. There is no perfect answer to the dilemma. The most important piece of advice I can give you is to wait before you point out a negative. I have found for me personally, before I allow a negative comment (intended to help the other person see the problems of course), I wait. Often I wait several days in order to see if the situation has worked itself out, and most of the time I never need to say anything!
Criticizing people behind their back is never helpful and is a big red flag that our motivation is not pure. Discretion and discernment are the traits of a wise person who uses their ability to assess an individual, or situation or idea with guarded reproof. On the other hand, the constant dripping of condemnation from a faultfinding friend can cause disunity, generating a negative environment whether it is in a family, a neighborhood or at work.
If you must offer a critique, always do it in the spirit of helpfulness and strength. Begin by praising what you see that is right in the person or situation, then carefully open up a broader perspective. Words like, “Have you thought about it this way?” Or “Could it be possible to…?” These phrases help the recipient take in your idea without feeling ridiculed or discouraged. Whenever you must relay a negative evaluation, try to offer positive alternatives as well. Most important, determine in your heart that you will live a life of encouragement as you see the best in others.
This is an excerpt from Positive Leadership Principles for Women. Get your copy by clicking the info below.