Home Opinion and Features Swinging the sling in the glass house

Swinging the sling in the glass house

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OPINION: Criticism is not only important, it is necessary, writes Lance Fredericks.

File picture: Pexels

IT’S A SAD fact that I frequently rub people up the wrong way in my column. Usually I do it on purpose, but not to hurt, harm or tarnish; I do it hoping to highlight problems and issues that I notice from my narrow perspective so that those who are able can remedy or at least address issues.

There are those who enjoy the way I do things, and I have people who hate what I write and how I write. But that’s the beauty of it all … you are never going to please everyone, so, I always argue, at least don’t hurt anyone.

Two weeks ago, however, I think I caused some hurt when I placed a file photograph of a specific bus company on my column. But here’s the thing; it’s sometimes a battle to find suitable pictures in a hurry. Deadlines are unyielding taskmasters, so when you find what seems to be the ‘perfect’ picture you jump at the opportunity to make your life easier.

Unfortunately, this time it is possible that using an opportunistic file picture of a specific bus company, when I was referring to buses in general, could have given the mistaken impression that I was referring, singling out and nailing that particular company … which is simply not the case.

I wrote: “… buses departing from the Kimberley Tourist Centre were NEVER on time. Usually passengers would find themselves waiting for between a half-hour to several hours for buses.”

This was not aimed at any one bus company.

However, having said that, I have been dropping people off and picking people up from the bus station for the past six years, and during all that time there have been a handful of times that buses were actually on time. And having said THAT, anyone can read between the lines and know that I couldn’t possibly know that every bus is always late, simply because I have never waited for every bus.

Perhaps the taxi services that regularly fetch and drop off passengers would have a better idea about that …

Interesting fun fact though, in the past, some bus companies had an SMS service to inform passengers of any delays. There were, however, other companies that never bothered to keep passengers informed. As far as I am concerned if you know that your transport has been delayed, it makes the wait a bit more bearable.

But not knowing … I always worried about female passengers travelling alone, waiting at a bus station not knowing when the bus would arrive.

We also have to remember that bus companies are not our enemies. They are providing a valuable and vital service to, I estimate, countless thousands of people each year.

And just as a side note, I have experienced the service of the bus company that was offended by my comments two weeks ago. And I was impressed. The staff working at the Tourism Centre are helpful, friendly and efficient. And the company’s drivers that I have had dealings with are similarly good-natured.

I have seen surly, rude and ill-mannered drivers from other companies in the past, so to come across drivers who are not prone to bite off one’s head is quite refreshing.

However, there is, I have learned, one clever way of silencing critics if you or your organisation believes that said critic is cutting too close to the bone.

You may silence the critics once in a while by telling them that you understand that you haven’t lived up to their expectations, but you will do better next time – within bounds of reason, of course, because some people have unreasonable expectations.

Another thing you can do is you can ask the critics to give you actionable points in their next comments. The phrase will help them to manage the way they offer negative feedback next time.

After all, criticism is not only important. It is necessary. Dr Gregory Boyd, teaching pastor at Woodland Hills Church in Minnesota told his congregation one day: “Don’t ask the people in your church or in your little huddle if you are a good Christian … ask that question to the people outside your church, even outside your religion. Only then will you have a clear idea of whether your effectiveness and influence is real or imaginary.”

In a nutshell … have you heard the quote by Norman Vincent Peale? He says, “The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”

So if you – whoever you are – are ever criticised, remember that criticism happens because you are actually DOING something. It’s easy to avoid being criticised. In fact, I once read that criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.

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