Pass the ball…

Last night, I heard my 20-year old son on the phone with his girlfriend.  She was having a bit of a problem at work with her team, and he was giving her advice — I thought it was pretty good advice, so I thought I’d share the concept here.

The team leader has been critical of her without being very specific.  She feels as though she can’t do anything right.  He’s indicating to her that her teammates are unhappy with her performance.  Again, no specifics are offered.  Justin advised her to go to her teammates and ask them for some feedback.  “Put the ball in their court,” he said.  “Ask them specifically what they need you to do to meet their expectations.”  His theory–if they can tell you, then you can work on it.  If they can’t tell you, maybe they’ll see that they are being overly critical.  Either way, she’s doing what she can to be a good team player, and the ball is in their court.

Too often, we stew over things, rant and rave about problems, and criticize others without thinking about the flip side — what would it take to remedy the situation?  What suggestions or specific examples could we give that would help the person understand why we’re unhappy with them.  This happens at work, in marriages, in social groups–it’s easy to gripe.  It’s much harder to pinpoint problematic behaviors and offer solutions.

Which side of this story are you on?  Are you being critical of someone in general without offering specifics that can help them improve?  Are you caught up in the “you always” or “you never” cycle where anything they do is wrong?  Or maybe you’re the person being criticized.  Have you asked for specific feedback?  Have you offered specific actions that you’ll work on?  Or are you just mad that everyone is coming down on you?  Pass the ball.  Ask for specifics?  Then take appropriate action.

Thanks, Justin, for reminding me of this great principle!

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