The Problem Goes on the Table

In the prior post we saw how criticism–focusing on incompetence–wastes the time, energy, and effort of the critic, the person being criticized, and the observers. This massive avoidable waste consumes people and kills organizations.

While criticism (verbalized or not) is not a winning strategy, neither are pulling punches, avoiding problems, letting things be. When problems arise, you must handle them.

How? Start by separating the problem from the person. Then ask for their help.

  1. Separate problem from person. Imagine we are in a meeting room with a table. If we focus on criticizing and they focus on defending, it is as if the table is a battle line with us on one side and they on the other side. The “problem” is inside the other person. When we separate the problem from the person, we metaphorically stand next to them at the table. We place the problem on the table in front of both of us. Separating the problem from the person means making an internal shift. We commit not to attack the other person with our thoughts, words, or actions. You can’t fake this. They will know it even if we just think our criticism.
  2. Ask for help. Once you have the problem in front of you both, ask for their help solving it.

If you’ve never tried this before, you will be amazed at how well it works. If it doesn’t work, keep trying. You may not have completely released your criticism, disappointment, or anger yet. Or they may be so used to defending that they need you to make a few overtures.

For tomorrow: Many of you commented to me how all this is easier said than done. Agreed. Criticism–focusing on what’s wrong–is a nasty habit we all have inherited. We’ll look at 3 ways to replace that habit with a stronger one.


In your corner,


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