by Virginia Knowles cross posted from her blog Watch the Shepherd
With a malevolent yet gleeful grin, a young man strode up and rapidly banged the button on the right: VERY POOR. Like ten times. Huh? What’s with that?
Our local Walmart has this new electronic stand near their exit doors so that customers can rate their satisfaction with checkout speed. The four buttons, with their corresponding facial expressions, range from VERY SATISFIED to VERY POOR. I guess if a bunch of people hit the POOR or VERY POOR buttons, they’d better send out more cashiers pronto! Great idea! They also sometimes station an employee near the check out lines with a big arrow sign pointing to the shortest line. I love it!
So what’s with the dude banging repetitively on the VERY POOR button? Did he really have a ssslllooowww time checking out?
I don’t think so. He didn’t look angry or disappointed at all. The impression I got from watching him is that he was being a bit malicious, trying to stir up mischief. I’m not sure the machine is set up to detect actions like that, but if not, he just single-handedly cancelled out a bunch of more positive pushes.
I reckon that doesn’t matter too much to Walmart. It’s not going to blow anyone’s day.
But it did make me think.
There are people in this world who do that to other real people. They bang on another soul’s “bad button” by constantly complaining, criticizing, accusing, and shaming.
Sure, there is a time to tap the VERY POOR button – with sincerity and discretion. But we shouldn’t do it to tear someone down. We should do it to alert them kindly to something that needs to be fixed. It’s called “speaking the truth in love” or “constructive criticism.” Unfortunately, some people claim that what they are doing is “love” and “constructive” when it’s just the opposite. How can you tell the difference? What is the ultimate effect? OK, so people won’t always appreciate us even if we say it right, but I think we can determine whether we are just annoying them or whether we have deeply offended them. It’s good to watch our words and actions. If you find yourself constantly nagging or belittling your child or your spouse or your employee or anyone else, STOP NOW! That is VERY POOR behavior. If in doubt, ask them how you are coming across. And don’t turn around and use that against them. Make sure you are acknowledging their strengths as well. Use those VERY SATISFIED and GOOD buttons as often as you can! They lift up the spirit and motivate like nothing else!
Let’s look at this from the other side, too. What if someone is banging your buttons? If your soul isn’t set up to perceive their motivation, you might be absorbing what they say as the gospel truth. You might think you are a horrible person who deserves whatever poop they want to dump on you. You don’t have to do that. Just say, “Sorry! That’s not gonna fly here!” Yeah, it’s more complicated than that, of course, but you get the idea. You don’t have to listen to chronic malignant negativity.
I’m not saying, however, that just because someone is persistent in communicating displeasure and that makes you uncomfortable, that they are being mean and need to shut up. Maybe you aren’t comprehending something yet that you really need to fix. Don’t just blow them off without thinking hard about it. Use your discernment. Are they making a request? Is it reasonable? Is it specific? Can you do anything about it? You can try to have a rational discussion and sort out the tangle.
What if the person still has something valid to say but is just going about it in the wrong manner? Pretend that you can dial down the emotional volume dial and hear that nugget that’s truly meant for you to understand. Then tune out the rest. And if they will listen, maybe you can have a chat about their communication style. “I’d love to hear what you have to say, but when you talk like that…” If it is your child who is whining, think about the practical factors: tired, hungry, bad day at school? Your kindness and patience and help can make a huge difference.
What do you think? How much button banging is going on in your life?
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