By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 12/18/19.
During 30 years of consulting and coaching, I’ve found three simple questions that leaders can use to diffuse criticism. Today responding to criticism is increasingly important, because divisions must be defused before they spread into viral polarization. Here are three questions that will accomplish this.
Elsie Keith, CEO of Lucid Meetings, provides the first question to ask when you are criticized or in a highly critical environment. It is to be curious and reply with curiosity.
“Wow, ok. I hear that you feel xyz. I want to understand that better. Can you tell me more about where you’re coming from?”
This reply doesn’t mean you agree, but it does tell them they’ve been heard. It begins to establish a rapport between the two of you. You weren’t acquiescing to their criticism. But you’re letting them know they’ve been heard and that you want to learn about their perspective.
Depending on how you count them, in the New Testament there are between 200 – 300 questions that Jesus asked his listeners. In fact, as a rabbi or Jewish teacher (John 1:38), Jesus would be expected to ask questions.
For example, even as a young man, when Jesus remained in the temple he defused his parents’ criticism as they arrived. “His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.” Jesus replied, “But why did you need to search? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48-49 NLT).
Jesus wasn’t acquiescing to their criticism (e.g. “why have you done this to us?”). Rather he let them know they’d been heard. Then he deepened their understanding, “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49 NLT).
While talking with Dr. Rob Voyle, a colleague who utilizes counseling skills called “appreciative inquiry,” I learned the next two questions to ask.
“What do you need to be able to move on?”
“Anxiety is always about the future, not the past,” Dr. Voyle told me. Therefore, when criticism is given it’s because someone is not able to see a preferred future. Instead, they see a future that worries them.
Jesus’ response in John 1:38 NLT gives us an example. “As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, ‘Look! There is the Lamb of God!’ When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus. Jesus looked around and saw them following. ‘What do you want?’ he asked them. They replied, ‘Rabbi’ (which means ‘Teacher’), ‘where are you staying?’ ‘Come and see,’ he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day. (John 1:36-39 NLT).
Asking others about the future and what they need to get there, is the second question. “If you focus on the past you’ll just hash it over with no resolution or progress” Dr. Voyle stated.
How many times have we hashed out the past only to find ourselves in the same polarized state after hours of discussion? This is because the direction of our discussion is wrong. It should not be about the past, but about the future (or you’ll get stuck in the past). Once you’ve asked question number one, letting them know they’ve been heard, then it’s time to focus your discussion on what’s ahead. Focusing on the future and their role on it moves the relationship forward.
The third question is to figure out where the person fits in the future solution.
“What do you love to do, what you want to do more than anything else?”
This helps you and them begin a dialogue about where they fit into the solution. You want their participation in the solution to be based upon what they want to do. But, you also want them to understand that their participation might require them to do things that they won’t enjoy.
In Jesus’ leadership we see that though he is omniscient and knows their questions in advance, he engages in the following questions and answers.
“Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do us a favor.” “What is your request?” he asked. They replied, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” But Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?” (Mark 10:35-38 NLT)
Jesus asked a question that pointed out that their desires were fleshly, carnal and self-serving. Then, Jesus put those desires in perspective by saying that following Him meant being immersed in bitter pain, suffering and sacrifice. In the biblical lives of James and John we see that Jesus’ answer began to foster in them humility, tenacity and sacrifice. James eventually was stabbed to death on the orders of Herod (Acts 12:2) and John would live many of his elder years in a slave-labor colony on the island of Patmos (Rev. 1). Both had changed from their boisterous, self-seeking nature ( they were labeled, “sons of thunder”) to become models of sacrifice and service.
So as I coach leaders about receiving criticism while charting out a future strategic plan, these three questions are critical. To recap, begin communication by responding with curiosity. The second question is to ask them what they need to be able to move forward. And the third question is to ask what they love to do and discussing together what their participation in the future will look like.
With these three questions you can begin a discussion that will quickly move the focus from criticism … toward a solution.
Read the original article at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/3-questions-that-will-diffuse-criticism/