Coaching 101: Critics Vs. Encouragers

How many coaches have you had in your lifetime?  5? 10? 20? However many, each was responsible for developing you in some subject or skill area. They helped grow your strengths and correct your weaknesses. When delivered in the right setting and in the right manner, their constructive criticism was a good thing, wasn’t it? It helped you be better, perform better, and know better.

There can be a dark side to criticism, though. It can be sharp, abrasive, and downright mean-spirited. This kind of advice comes off sounding like a slap in the face instead of an arm around the shoulders, and can deeply hurt people. People do it because they think it gets fast results, but they couldn’t be more misguided.

I’ve known people who are natural critics of everything in life, including themselves. It’s as though they thrive on negativity and find pleasure in correcting others or pointing out their weaknesses. They have a distorted view of reality and are often angry, bitter, insecure, mean-spirited, jealous, or all of the above. These types usually operate on the assumption that correcting flaws is the way to maximize results. They withhold praise. “Coaches” like this can be tough to handle.

There is another philosophy that operates from a completely different paradigm. It embodies inspiration, encouragement, and constructive feedback. Here, others are challenged to build on their strengths and correct their weaknesses through positive instruction and effort. Communication includes both positives and negatives, but the style embraces praise and encouragement over harsh criticism.

Let’s self-reflect for a moment.

  1. Which style works better for you when you’re on the receiving end of criticism?
  2. Which style do you employ when you’re on the delivering end of criticism?

I’m pretty confident we will all respond to the first question with “the second style.”  But, our answers are going to vary on the second. Are we humble and self-aware enough to be honest if the truthful answer is, “the first style?”

There’s a wise proverb that says, “The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry, and a wise friend’s timely reprimand is like a gold ring slipped on your finger.” Wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of impact in other people’s life? Not only that, wouldn’t it be more effective?

Throughout your life you’ll face countless situations where you give feedback to others. You may be a teacher or coach yourself (or become one, one day), or perhaps you manage an office or a team of employees. You might be asked for guidance from a friend who is going through a difficult time or a tough decision. Which coaching philosophy will you adopt? Remember, how you say it matters (http://dennistrittin.com/view_blog.aspx?blog_id=127) —a lot.

In order to bring out the best in others, the encouragement approach is far more effective. Not only is the feedback more balanced and accurate, but people put forth a more inspired effort to reach new heights when they work with someone who cares. Simply stated, people try harder to please someone they like and admire.

So, whenever you have the opportunity, be an encourager, not a critic—and always look for the best in people.

Consider the favorite teachers, coaches, and mentors in your life. What coaching style did they use? Which one comes more naturally to you? Do you actively seek opportunities to praise and encourage others?

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