Try these 2 Principles to help Develop a more Effective and Happier you
by Kevin D. Crone
The other day I heard an old friend criticizing something that was important to me, difficult to solve, and worried me from time to time. After the call, I could feel my stress increase. I certainly wasn’t more confident or inspired to act. It got me thinking, will you and I remember a criticism longer than a compliment? Which one is more important? Which one has more impact?
I think it depends on what’s going on. For example, if you’re trying to accomplish something of real importance and you’ve had a bad, unconscious habit that blocks your progress, and someone who cares about you, points it out, then criticism might be helpful and appreciated, especially if you asked for the coaching or advice. However, how it’ s done still matters. On the other hand, when someone just throws out some cavalier, nasty comment, then our typical reaction is often over-emotional. And, if things aren’t going too well anyway, it can really sting and sometimes that sting lasts forever.
It seems to me that bad stuff can happen at any time, on any day. Some are just nagging frustrations such as getting kids to school, traffic, social-media posts, etc. These things are mostly out of our control, but they can make us a bit angry and it becomes easy for us to look for someone to blame. Then, the first thing out of our mouth is criticism. When this becomes chronic, we can become constantly moody and even our loving dog can hear it from us (now that’s going too far). People will want to avoid us, even our loved ones. Some setbacks are going to happen and anyone trying to be successful and happy is going to experience them and when it’s a big one, it leaves us open for others to take a shot at us. We even take shots at ourselves. I guess that’s one definition of being down. It can lead to a loss of confidence and we begin to shy away from trying so hard at doing difficult things that we need to do.
When we criticize others and point out their faults, we will never know what a negative impact we had on them. What they needed was a little inspiration because setbacks happen to everyone, but instead, they got a soul damaging, motivation stopping, discouraging torpedo to the heart.
Dale Carnegie said, “Any fool can criticize and most fools do.”
So it is possible that we run around our days causing our own bad moods, turning off a few people at the least and, at the worst, we’re negatively influencing some people’s attitude instead of helping them grow. Even with people we love.
We all know a few people who don’t care if they put down Mother Theresa, let alone a young grocery clerk. As I’ve heard someone say in a meeting, (me), “Some people can’t see hurting others feelings as being wrong, usually because they lack feeling themselves.” Just winning at all cost, bullying others to get what they want is their modus operandi.
Thankfully, the majority of people are civil, do their jobs, take care of their family, have some faults, but do the best they can. They do have feelings. They do mess up and ill-intentioned criticism doesn’t work or help. Even well-intentioned criticism usually backfires. People just get their back up and criticize back, and nothing much changes. Sometimes even powerful bullies can eventually suffer from some payback. They look around in serious times of setbacks and see that they’re all alone.
So, if criticism doesn’t work all that well and we do it too much, then how do we replace it and what does work?
In our Dale Carnegie work we asked millions of participants all over the world, in every culture, to try on and apply to their life and job, different sets of human relations principles for three weeks at a time. The principles most chosen were:
‘Don’t criticize, condemn or complain,’ followed by ‘Give honest and sincere appreciation.’
In their subsequent accountability reports, we have heard some amazing examples of what happened to their relationships, job performance, and attitudes and perspective changes that made them happier and more productive leaders. It’s tough handling people – well.
It’s convinced me that chronic criticism is an unconscious habit and we all tend to do it. We have to catch ourselves, take a breath, shut up and move on. If you want to: develop better relationships, be less stressed and a bit more upbeat, be heard and gain cooperation, try on these two principles for three weeks. See what happens. You may find amazing results.
Also, the most positive, proactive affect you can have on people is to tell them what you appreciate about what they said or did in the moment or over a longer haul. Be specific. Don’t give phoney flattery that people see through. We ask managers in our outstanding “Leadership Training for Managers program ” to write down the name of employees, associates, customers, and family members and next to their names write down a strength you see they have, why you say that, an example of when they exhibited it, and then to point it out to them, in sincere fashion, in an email, conversation and, if appropriate, in a group and see what happens. Then we suggest they continually look for strengths in others, point them out and not just criticize, and see what happens to their spirit and results. Heck, most report that they couldn’t believe the positive results. In contrast, we hear most managers give little feedback at all and when they do it is mostly a criticism and the stomach continues to turn.
So, my friends, I suggest we all practice these two immensely important principles over the next three weeks. Your kids, spouse, customers, associates and employees might feel you are on something but will like it never the less. And, you are onto something – a better, more effective, and happier you.
Have a great week!
Kevin D. Crone
Dale Carnegie Business Group
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