Last week, I stumbled upon a Twitter conversation between a well known social media speaker and an audience member. (I'll not disclose who they are.) The audience member was disappointed in the speaker's presentation at a live event, and publicly Tweeted her frustration using the speaker's name. The speaker responded, touching off several status updates, as she “busted him out” and he defended himself.
As a leader and speaker, I am used to criticism and feedback, not all of it easy to swallow. Thankfully, when people have taken exception to one of my presentations, they have not resorted to Twitter, and they have usually extended grace. Watching the speaker and the audience member duke it out in public last week reminded me of the need for more grace in our society in general, and in our social media dealings in particular. Here are a few places to start.
- Look at yourself first. Before criticizing anyone, in public or otherwise, take stock of your own failings and imperfections. Check your motivation. Are you trying to be helpful, or are you trying to stir up trouble, or start controversy so you can grow your Twitter following. Matthew 7:5 offers a good advice, admonishing us to “[G]et rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye.” Before calling someone else out in public, consider all the things you could be called out for. Before taking action that may humiliate someone else, be thankful for all the times you were not humiliated when you really deserved it.
- Criticize constructively. After analyzing your motivation, and searching your heart, if you still feel compelled to criticize, do so constructively. Start by offering positive feedback — surely you can find something positive to say about a person before lighting into him or her. This creates a positive atmosphere and prevents the other person from feeling dumped upon. Instead of telling him what he did wrong, tell him what was good about his performance, and then suggest how he can improve on it. Offer tips and suggestions that give him something concrete to do so he can improve the next time around.
- Build and nurture relationships. When offering feedback of any kind, consider how you can do it in ways that build and nurture relationships, and pave the way for future positive interactions.
Once, I worked with a group of people on a project, and I promised to take a specific action by a specific date. Instead of emailing me and copying the whole group when I missed my deadline, one of my colleagues picked up the phone and confronted me personally, asking me where my work was, and when I was going to complete it. She was firm, yet kind. This encouraged me to step up my game. We are very good friends and business colleagues today. She allowed me to “save face,” and I stepped up to the plate with a greater commitment to the project overall.
Higher Self-Esteem Through Grace
Grace, by definition, is not warranted. In other words, when grace is extended, it is done when the person to whom it is extended does not deserve it.
In the case of the speaker and the audience member, it's quite possible that the presentation really stunk. Even so, the audience member could have extended grace. That is, even though the speaker may have deserved a pummeling, the audience member could have offered criticism with frankness, bathed in kindness. It seems to me that would have been a much more productive approach.
Instead of one less positive relationship in each person's life, the result could have been a more successful speaker and an audience member who could have taken pride in offering insights that a respected speaker may not have thought of before.
Wasted opportunities all around, if you ask me.
As small business leaders, we thrive in a sea of stress and intense activity. Each one of us is wearing multiple hats and we all fall short from time to time. At the end of the day, we should strive to build each other up — to encourage each other to achieve our goals and to improve each day. Extending grace is one of the many ways we can do that.
Just because you are not face-to-face with someone does not mean you should take licenses you would not take in person. You can be honest without being rude. You can encourage a person's self-esteem without brown nosing, and you can offer criticism without tearing another person down in front of thousands (or millions) of people on a social media network like Twitter.
When I have the chance, that's what I do. And if you ever see me do otherwise, call me on it so I can do better. But please, be gracious. I'm a work in progress.
Question: Do you agree that there's a need for more grace in our social media dealings today?