The first criticism pointed out a factual error, so I corrected it. The second criticism is a valid conversation to have, but it’s more a matter of opinion than a statement of objective facts, so I stayed silent on that.
Second, for criticism to be valid, it must be given with a constructive attitude.
I don’t care how accurate your criticism is, if you call me a name or assign motives to me that I don’t hold, the content of your criticism won’t get through because I won’t read or listen to it.
I encourage other pastors and communicators to do the same thing. Listen to those who are trying to build you up. Ignore those who just want to argue or criticize.
For more on how to criticize well, check out The Church Needs Better Critics (9 Ways to Win Hearts, not Just Arguments).
2. Apologize, If Necessary
There are few more important words in a leader’s vocabulary than “I’m sorry.” It shows humility, respect for the facts and a willingness to learn.
3. Correct the Mistake, If Possible
One of the advantages that blogging has over traditional magazines (or preaching, for that matter), is that you can go back and correct errors after you hit publish.
It shouldn’t be done too often, but any time I have the chance to correct an obvious factual error, I do so (with an appropriate notice that the post has been updated).
For other mistakes, the correction should correspond to the error. If you made a mistake during a sermon, correct it from the pulpit. In private? Make the correction in private.
4. Don't Beat Yourself Up Over It
Perfection is a heavy burden to bear. Trying to maintain the perception of perfection is almost as heavy.
We know you’re not perfect. You need to know it, too. Mistakes should be acknowledged and fixed if possible. But don’t use it as a stick to beat yourself up.
5. Do Better Next Time
This is why I appreciate valid criticism. Because it gives me the chance to improve.
Every error reminds me to check my facts more carefully next time. To read and re-read my own posts and/or speaking notes with a more discerning eye. To ask “is there anything that is, or could be seen as unkind, untrue or unhelpful in this?”
So, to all who have encouraged, corrected, prodded and otherwise nudged me to be a better communicator, I thank you.
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