Every time you see her you get a pain in your stomach. You are convinced that when the apostle Paul wrote, â€œa thorn in my flesh,â€ that he somehow knew this woman. Every time she is around she only has negative things to say. Well, here she comes. As the pastor you are about to get blasted, yet again. She gripes about how the music is too loud, the worship area is too dark, and how the temperature is too cold, and lastly how she does not prefer your preaching â€œstyle.â€Â Her comments come at you like a machine gun, and she mows you down like some old time gangster movie. She makes her departure and you swear you smell gun smoke in the air.
All of this happens moments before the Sunday morning service begins. You feel completely drained, and you havenâ€™t even stepped into the pulpit yet. How she even found you when you were hiding in the janitorial closet (I mean â€œgetting some suppliesâ€) is beyond you.
Inevitably as a leader you will need to give some â€œconstructive criticism,” or you will be on the receiving end of â€œwell I think . . .â€ and whether you are giving it, or receiving it, criticism is an important part of healthy communication. Today we will talk about how to give it, and receive it in such a way that will help your team.
The first step in the whole process is to determine the severity of the â€œissue.â€ This value/severity that you place on the issue will determine what steps should be taken. Take a breath; it may not be as big of deal as you are making it out to be.
In this passage Peter would act one way when certain people were around, and then another way when other people were around. Not only was this hypocritical and disrespectful, but in Peterâ€™s case it would also lead people to believe in a false gospel (faith+works). In this case Paul has to deal with this offense publicly. Â So on a scale from 1 to 10, this was a 10. It was a big deal and had to be dealt with as though it were a â€œbig deal.â€
Rule #1 â€œWhat is done publicly, must be dealt with publicly; what is done in private, is to be dealt with in private.â€ If what has been done publicly will cause harm if unaddressed, then you must address it publicly.
I have discussed this passage in another article so I wonâ€™t go into much detail, but I wanted to highlight that Jethro went to Moses one-on-one. If we desire to help another person, the best way is to give our constructive criticism one-one-one.
Rule#2 â€œPraise publicly, criticize privately.â€
Some Suggestions for the “Meeting”
- Give a description of the issue, and if you have an idea of how to fix it, give it. But donâ€™t offer constant â€œissuesâ€ without some attempt to give ideas of how to fix it. Otherwise you just come across as being a negative person, and not a team player. Â If you donâ€™t share your thoughts then you are robbing them from the input you can have in their lives, but if you deliver your thoughts at the wrong time or in the wrong way then you could push them further away
- Wait until the time and place is right to offer your â€œwisdom.â€ The woman offering her â€œconcernsâ€ moments before the pastor needed to preach a message is inconsiderate and selfish.
- Donâ€™t speak on behalf of others â€œwho are to remain anonymous,â€ instead tell the person how what they are doing makes you feel. Explain how you feel the personâ€™s actions are affecting the team.
- Also, donâ€™t exaggerate the issue so that your argument sounds stronger. Avoid words like, â€œalways and never,â€ that give no wiggle room on actions. Also avoid placing motive behind someone elseâ€™s actions (selfish, dictator, power-hungry, etc.) It could be that you are not omnipotent and know every detail regarding the situation.
- Consider using the following when telling the person your concerns: â€œWhen you (describe the issue) I feel (one word describing your feeling) because (explain why you react this way).Â Here it is filled in:Â â€œWhen you share your concerns with me right before the worship service I feel attacked because I do not have time to explain the reason why we have made these decisions, and it is in a very public place.â€
- Our goal is to help people and the team as a whole to do a better job. So we need to encourage them, and to find something they are doing well. Let them hear you praise them and their work at times other than when you are dealing with â€œissues.â€ Try to avoid only praising your team right before you get to the â€œreal issue.â€ They will see right through this smoke screen, and ignore any good things you have to say.
You may also be on the receiving end of someoneâ€™s â€œideas,â€ so remember communication is a two-way street. So here are a few suggestions if you are on the other side of the table:
- Let the person tell you what they are feeling or want to say to you without interrupting. There will be a strong desire to explain or justify your actions, but just be patient and let the person talk; you will have a chance to talk in a few minutes. Sometimes people just need to express their thoughts, and donâ€™t need for anything to be â€œfixed.â€ So always listen, they may have something good to say even if it is delivered poorly. But also, it is ok, to stop someone and ask to discuss this at another time and explain that this is not the right time or place to discuss the matter. You do not have to be “dumped upon.” Just because someone else may feel the need to get some “things off their chest,” does not mean that you have to have it upon yours.
- Reflect back what they have said, so that they know you are listening and have understood what they have said. You could say something like, â€œI hear you saying that when I . . . you feel . . . because . . .â€
- Try not to be tense. The more relaxed you are, the better able you can think clearly and work through the situation.
Philippians 2:3 â€œDo nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.â€ (ESV)
We all have areas of improvement and should consider others better than ourselves. Therefore as â€œiron sharpens ironâ€ we can all learn something from each other, as long as we do it in love.