We don’t owe our friends a positive response, but we do owe them a sensitive response

Suppose we try something creative for the first time and are unsure about the quality of the product: “Is it good? Is it great? Is it passable? Is it terrible?” 

When we seek feedback from our friends, especially those friends who know something about that creative field, we wouldn’t want them to flatter or pamper us; we would want to genuinely know where we stand. Yet we all have finite capacities to stomach criticism, especially criticism of our ‘babies’, which is how creators often feel about their creations. If we get severe criticism, we might become so disheartened or even devastated as to never try that thing again, or maybe even never try anything creative again. That would be tragic, especially if we had talents that just needed honing, talents that went unexpressed with us to our graves because of one harsh criticism. 

What applies to us also applies to our friends. Suppose they try something creative and seek our feedback. Just because we are their friends doesn’t mean we owe them a positive response always; we may want to help them stay grounded. Simultaneously however, we don’t want them to be buried alive; we don’t want to permanently extinguish their creative spark. That’s why we do owe them a sensitive response. Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (17.15) urges us to discipline our speech by learning to speak non-agitatingly, truthfully, pleasingly, beneficially. 

The same balance of accuracy and sensitivity is necessary when we share spiritual wisdom with others. If they have some misconceptions, we may need to educate them. But we need to be sensitive, all the more so if they are emotionally invested in their present conceptions. 

When we thus learn to temper truth with sensitivity, our speech will become much more effective. 

 

Think it over:

  • What is wrong with feedback that is only positive?
  • What is wrong with feedback that is only critical?
  • For the next three days, notice whenever you speak negatively about anyone. Consider how you can be more sensitive.  

 

***

17.15 Austerity of speech consists in speaking words that are truthful, pleasing, beneficial, and not agitating to others, and also in regularly reciting Vedic literature.

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3 Comments

  1. Beautiful message, Prabhuji.

    In this article, you have succinctly expressed the importance of tempering truth with sensitivity while we share spiritual wisdom with others.

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  2. FRIENDSHIP fosters fraternity

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