How can we ensure that our words of correction act as scalpels, not axes?

by Chaitanya CharanApril 22, 2015

Transcription (edited) by- Keshav Gopal Das

Question- How can we ensure that our words of correction act like scalpels and not like axes? This question is based on gitadaily article – Don’t use the axe of criticism where the scalpel of correction is needed

Answer-  Even when a surgery is done a surgeon can’t ensure success. We know that a disclaimer is signed by the patient before the surgery that s/he is aware of the risk and voluntarily agrees to do this surgery. Similarly success cannot be guaranteed when correcting of providing feedback to someone. The important point to recognize here is that results are not ultimately in our hands.

However, we can take some precautions which will make the process of corrective feedback as best as possible. Primarily we can do three things – (i) check our intentions (ii) check our expression and (iii) check the disposition of person receiving feedback.

Let us now expand on each one of these:

Check our intentions: If we feel delighted in finding fault with other person we should avoid correcting till we change such attitude. Corrective feedback works best when the other person and us are on the same side. It should not be done in a situation where we are seen sitting like a judge in a court room and the other person is in the defendant’s box. We should understand that we all are conditioned souls struggling to overcome our own weaknesses. We should try to change our intention by philosophy and by prayer. Philosophically, one should remember that s/he may not have a particular weakness but one will have his/her own weaknesses. One would not like if someone would be correcting out of some delight. Further, we can pray for the other person. When we pray for the other person, we do not see the person as a troublemaker but as a partner. We are in the same boat making our journey through the ocean of illusion toward the shore of liberation beyond our conditionings.

Check our expression: If we ourselves are in an irritable mood or are insensitive then our words come off in a way which is counter-productive. Our intention may be good but if our expression is insensitive and not adequately thought about then it can hurt the other person. It can also alienate the other person. If we have to correct someone, we have to think carefully to understand what words to use so that we express ourselves in a non-judgmental way. For example if we say – ‘you are a lazy bum’ – this is a very judgmental statement which can alienate the other person. However, we should make it more objective such that we state the behavior, effect of the behavior, and effect on us. For example – ‘when you sleep at the time when you are supposed to be doing the service, at that time, our team’s schedule get disrupted. I feel very disappointed by this.’ Here rather than judging the person or condemning the person we should sound very objective. Tell the action, tell the effect of the action, and tell the effect on our emotion. When we offer judgment on the character of that person, the person will immediately go into the defensive mode.

Check the disposition of the person receiving feedback: If a person is already discouraged because of something, then at that time if we give the person feedback the person may get completely demoralized. Hence sometime the correction or feedback needs to be delayed and given when the person is more receptive to receive it.

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Chaitanya Charan

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