Jim Daly Christian Blog and Commentary

How to Criticize -- And Not Be Hated For It

  • Jim Daly
    Jim Daly is president and chief executive officer of Focus on the Family, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families thrive.
  • 2012 May 08
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Posted by Jim_Daly May 7, 2012




When was the last time you read Dale Carnegie’s classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People?  Although it’s sprinkled with time-dated illustrations, its core messages are timeless. For example, consider the following excerpt on how to correct a person without unduly offending them. As a husband and father, this lesson has broad reaching application:criticism2.jpg

Charles Schwab was passing through one of his steel mills one day at noon when he came across some of his employees smoking. Immediately above their heads was a sign which said “No Smoking.”

Did Schwab point to the sign and say, “Can’t you read?”

Oh, no, not Schwab. He walked over to the men, handed each one a cigar, and said, “I’ll appreciate it, boys, if you will smoke these on the outside.”

They knew that he knew that they had broken a rule – and they admired him because he said nothing about it and gave them a little present and made them feel important. Couldn’t keep from loving a man like that, could you?

On March 8, 1887, the eloquent Henry Ward Beecher died. The following Sunday, Lyman Abbot was invited to speak in the pulpit left silent by Beecher’s passing. Eager to do his best, he wrote, rewrote and polished his sermon with meticulous care. Then he read it to his wife. It was poor – as most written speeches are. She might have said, 1Thes511.pngif she had had less judgment, “Lyman, that is terrible. That’ll never do. You’ll put people to sleep. It reads like an encyclopedia. You ought to know better than that after all the years you have been preaching. For heaven’s sake, why don’t you talk like a human being?”

That’s what she might have said. And if she had, you know what would have happened. And she knew, too. So, she merely remarked that it would make an excellent article for the North American Review. In other words, she praised it and at the same time subtly suggested that it wouldn’t do as a speech. Lyman Abbot saw the point, tore up his carefully prepared manuscript, and preached without even using notes.

To change people without giving offense or arouse resentment:

Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.

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