When it comes to feedback, niceness has never helped anyone get better. If you want to improve at anything, fault-finding friends are a must. Encouragement and affirmation have a place, unless you want to learn from your mistakes. You can be working really hard at something, but if no one says anything, all you’re doing is getting better and better at missing the mark.

One of my daughters joined a chess club. We’ve been practicing at home. Right now, I’m better than she is. I can capitalize on her mistakes and win. I could choose to not address her faulty strategies and continue to snatch a slight charge from winning against a little girl. However, I choose to point out what she’s doing, because I want her to get better.

I joined a speech class several months ago. After each presentation a fellow class member will provide an evaluation. It always hurts to hear what went wrong, but how else does one know what needs attention? That kind of feedback is rare. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Well meant are the wounds a friend inflicts, but profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Everyone in the class is there to become a better communicator, so the comments are received as gifts to make us grow.

I think this principle applies to external competence (skills) and internal character (integrity). Often bad behavior persists simply because no one ever says anything. “The more successful someone becomes,” writes John Ortberg, “the more they need to have their character questioned. And the less likely it is to happen.” It is less likely to happen because niceness quashes helpfulness.

Is there anyone in your life willing to hurt you? Are you open to someone telling you what you are doing wrong? Perhaps the reason that thing (whatever that thing is) isn’t getting better is because you won’t allow it to be scrutinized and evaluated.

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