Stop Correcting People!

Henry Ford wisely said, “Don’t find fault.  Find a remedy.”  Why do people feel the need to point out other people’s mistakes?  Well, it could be they genuinely want the other person to improve.  It could be that they want to help.  Or it could be that they are trying to knock the other person down a few pegs to themselves feel powerful in comparison.  WikiHow.com shares, “Criticism is futile, because it puts a person on the defensive and causes him to justify himself.  Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s pride and arouses resentment.  Criticism is vain, because in judging others, we regard ourselves as more righteous than they.”

For some people, their self-esteem and identity is tied to “being right” and “being knowledgeable”.  They feel that they are a worthwhile person if they are correct, and more importantly, if other people know it.  If you derive your self-esteem from being right… why?  Why is that your source of self-esteem?  Do you feel embarrassed being wrong or making a mistake?  Does that seem rational to you?  Surely you must realize that you can’t be right all of the time.  You only need to be right 51% of the time and you would make a billion dollars on the stock market this year!  If someone was right all the time, they’d have easily developed the cure for cancer, brought peace to the Middle East, and found a solution to world hunger.  Since these haven’t been accomplished, you may want to lower your estimation of yourself being “all knowing” a notch, Scooter.  Again, only one man ever was, and no one ever will be again.  Compulsively correcting people is purely an ego game, and as SpiritualPub.com shares, “One day, you will come to an understanding that in a pretentious game of gratifying your ego, you have auctioned the inner beauty of your soul.”

I have a family member whom I love very much who is, and has always been, right about everything (in their eyes).  It’s a sad condition because it holds him back from learning.  Why would someone bother learning when they think they already know everything?  It might be true we have some expertise in a certain area, but imagine the vast ocean of knowledge we don’t have!  Also, is it possible that our suggestion is correct, but someone else’s idea might also have merit?  There might be two different solutions to the same problem.  2+2 equals 4, but so does 1+3.  And even if we are correct, remember that no one wants to hear about it if we come across as an arrogant know-it-all!  (No one… except you!)

The world is filled with people who will tell you what you do wrong.  Your friends, family and colleagues are constantly told by everyone around them what they do wrong!  Even if your heart is genuinely in a good place and you want to help the other person by correcting them, may I suggest you reconsider?  As Dale Carnegie wrote, “When we are wrong, we may admit it to ourselves.  And if we are handled gently and tactfully, we may admit it to others and even take pride in our frankness and broad-mindedness.  But not if someone else is trying to ram the unpalatable fact down our esophagus.”

If someone is about to make a tiny mistake, to consider letting them know gently.  Please don’t come across as a know-it-all.  You may want to say, “I could be wrong, but have you considered this?  Perhaps there is another way of looking at this problem.”  Or, “This is only my opinion, and I certainly am not an expert, but what about this option?”  Using language like that leaves a back door for their ego to remain intact.  Throw a little uncertainty into your language in order to gently introduce a suggestion.  You may also try getting their permission to offer a suggestion.  Perhaps something like, “Bob, if I noticed something I felt could really help you, do I have your permission to offer a little tip?”  By getting their permission first, they are probably more open to hearing what you have to say.  I learned from my mentor it matters less to the other person whether you are right; it matters if their ego and feelings are intact.

Finally, stop yourself and ask, “Who am I to criticize this other man?”  Consider all the mistakes you have made throughout your life.  It can be pretty easy to feel self-righteous when considering our strengths to another, but what about our flaws compared to their flaws?  In John 8:9 Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  I know all of my flaws. Who am I to judge another man?  At this point, you may be wondering, “He, wait a minute… is Tim judging me or trying to tear me down?” or “Is Tim trying to teach me people skills?”  Actually, I’m trying to show you we all make these common mistakes and we all have value that we and others may not yet see.

Now, naysayers will point out avoiding correcting people doesn’t count for landing airplanes, brain surgery or running a nuclear power plant.  Of course there are times when you point out a mistake!  If your spouse is driving the car and about to run a red light or crash into someone, don’t AVOID pointing it out in order to dogmatically follow this principle.  Use discretion.  However, the three extreme examples I just gave are situations where a person is in mortal danger.  99.9% of the time we AREN’T in mortal danger, so the exception won’t apply most of the time!  You still need to avoid criticism most of the time!

Fortunately, even a blunt choleric like myself can soften his edges, develop some empathy, and share mentorship and advice from a place of serving rather than correcting.  To quote from Bringing Out the Best in People, author Alan Loy McGinnis said, “Good managers and good teachers, on the other hand, do not waste much time doing postmortems on the failures of their people.  Instead they look for strengths that others have overlooked and ways to encourage the gifts in their group.”  If you want to become a better leader, I’d encourage you to bite your tongue when you feel you are about to criticize, and instead, point out what someone has done correctly.

God Bless, Tim Marks

34 thoughts on “Stop Correcting People!”

  1. This is such amazing post. Thank you very much for the reminder of this simple but very impactful truth. This is a really great reminder for me even with dealing with my children.

  2. Thanks for sharing this Tim! I am so grateful for the grace culture that we have in the LIFE community. I have said some powerfully stupid things around Chris Brady and he always finds a way to avoid correction and affirm something else about me.

  3. This is a great way to start the day reading this, before going out and making some meetings. Good to consider this around our children as well. What a great reminder and can be a daily affirmation, too.
    Appreciate the sharing and the way you put yourself out there for everyone.

    “Good managers and good teachers, on the other hand, do not waste much time doing postmortems on the failures of their people. Instead they look for strengths that others have overlooked and ways to encourage the gifts in their group.” – Alan Loy McGinnis

    Great quote to have pulled out, at least I feel it applies to me this day for what has been on my mind. Find the good in others, cause we would want them to do the same to us.Think before we speak. Just “Principles”, trying to live a principled LIFE.
    THANKS!

  4. Fantastic post Tim.
    I wish I had all the time back I’ve spent trying to convince others I was right on things that truly did not matter.
    How old Elvis would have been on his birthday this year really has no substance.
    Keep sharing these great thoughts.

    Be safe – Tony.

  5. Great post Tim! I know I forget this principle all the time and correct the little things that don’t really matter in the big picture. it was a great reminder to use judgement on what really needs to be corrected, and a good technique on how to correct something someone says properly.

    Thanks Tim!

  6. Alright,
    you know I was just making a note to myself about a couple of relationships on the team and at home front that the Lord was convicting me if i was more on the correction/critical mode than amplifying their strengths mode. I hear you loud an clear. But again, how did you know…you are a genious(if you are british) or is that genius(if you are american)? Dont correct me on that one. But I am choleric and critical melacholy… often wrong, never in doubt… until I read or talk to Tim.

    GBY.
    –thank you
    –venkat

  7. Wow Tim thanks for the post!! I have a few story toppers in my life and as you say in your post a lot of it due to a low self esteem and what we do on the team is build people up!!!

  8. Thanks Tim! This post is an amazing reminder to not correct people. I used to always correct people for little things that didn’t ever matter. I still am not perfect at it, but am much better than I was thanks to LIFE!

    Kaitlyn Fix

  9. Tim,

    Such a powerful message in a time of a critical America. So many critical opinions and so little truth. Your article is filled with truth and the message is loud and clear.

    Thanks for the gentle(ouch), yet spot on reminder of a simple point – find a remedy.

  10. Well said! Criticizing others seems to come naturally. Developing the skill of edifying, encouraging and praising others is very important for all of us to master. In II Samuel 1:17-27 and 2:7 are examples of a great leader (King David) using these skills. Thanks for the reminder!!!!

  11. Great post Tim. Thank you for being such a awesome leader and helping others such as myself soften our rough edges!!!

  12. What an awesome reminder and article to implement again! This one is often forgotten, especially in how we make suggestions or offer helpful opinions. Thank you Tim

  13. Great read – thanks! I have posted in my bathroom right now: don’t criticize, condemn, complain….and I always seem to remember after I have done one of them!! AHHHH!

  14. Thanks, Tim. These questions really made me think: “If you derive your self-esteem from being right… why? Why is that your source of self-esteem?”

    I tend to be of the “perfectionist” personality — at least where it relates to others. I have learned to bite my tongue, but then I pride myself on biting my tongue better than others! I have a long way to go, but I very much appreciate the timely reminders.

  15. Tim, sorry this doesn’t have much to do with this particular blog post, although i appreciate your comments and influence on this subject … I’m new to the life material, and i was curious what religious denomination you consider yourself a part of. I tried asking the question on the life website and the response i received from the customer service rep said she wasn’t sure and i could best get a response from you personally here. If you prefer to email me directly and not respond publicly i understand, my email is danielc384@gmail.com.Thanks,Daniel

  16. I am constantly working on implementing this into my life. I never realized how much I criticize to get my point across. I never realized it had to do with self-esteem until recently. If not for this business I would of continued through life with the blinders on.

    Thanks for everthing you do.
    Brian Sommers

  17. Excellent post! I am a recovering “people corrector” thanks to the LIFE material. I believe Orrin said something to the effect of you attract more bees with honey than with vinegar. How true! Nix the correction, find a compliment to give and watch the impact it has on the other person! Thanks again Tim!

  18. Wow, I needed to read this for sure! I am a “blunt choleric” too and in fact, just hurt a teammate with this very thing, without realizing what I was saying until they hung up on me. I have a lot to learn and am constantly working at this very thing and am getting better but I totally still have those 95% twitches that Chris talks about. Thanks for your knowledge and guidance.
    Sherry

  19. Tim, I am reading your “Voyage of A Viking” book right now. You are a testament to God working miracles in a person’s life! As one who has overcome many struggles in my own life, I thank God for you and your wife, and all the members of the Policy Council. Your stories, your teachings, and your examples have been an inspiration to me! God Bless.

  20. Tim
    There are so many lessons in this one post! But what’s even more incredible, while being involved with the LIFE business I have seen you exhibit leaving the back door open so that a person’s ego remains intact, asking for permission before offering a suggestion and showing Grace and Encouragement when that’s all someone was really needing.
    Thank You for your incredible teaching & creating a community that has this for it’s culture.
    Nancy

  21. Wow that could not have happened at a better time . Was just going to talk to a employee about how she handles things and you gave me a better way to do that !!!
    Thanks Tim

  22. Tim,

    Thank you for this post. I need to reread this about every single day. haha. I’m so grateful to have you mentoring with Orrin, mentoring Chris, who has the opportunity (when I’m a hungry student) to work with me. The trickle down effect of these pieces of gold is awesome.

    Thank you for striving to grow and change everyday and inspiring us that we can do the same.

    Jeff 🙂

  23. Great reminders Tim,

    I can have a tendancy to find fault with others rather than accepting them where they are, finding things to approve of in their lives and letting them know they are appreciated. We operate much better with commendation rather than condemnation.

    Thanks for the example you set.

  24. This post is healing! How we crave someone to accept us, to correct us gently without tearing us down. Often times I sit to analyse myself only to realise I’m as horrible as the persons I want to correct

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