16By Dennis J. Trittin

How many coaches have you had in your lifetime? 20? 30? 40? However many, each has helped develop you in some subject or skill area by growing your strengths and correcting your weaknesses. When delivered in the right setting and in the right manner—through encouragement and instruction—their constructive criticism was a good thing, wasn’t it?

There’s another coaching philosophy based on a belief that harsh criticism of faults, weaknesses, or outcomes maximizes results. They believe that fear, rather than encouragement, is the better motivator.

Throughout life, you’ll face countless situations where you’ll speak into the lives of others. You might be a parent, spouse, or relative. You may be a teacher or coach yourself, or perhaps a manager of people. You might be a colleague or sibling or a friend of someone who is going through a difficult time or a tough decision. Knowing this, how would you answer the following questions:

Which style works better for you when you’re on the receiving end of criticism?
Which style do you employ when you’re on the delivering end of criticism?

I’m pretty confident we will all respond to the first question with “the encouraging style.” (After all, research has shown that appreciation is the greatest motivator!) But, our answers will likely vary on the second. Are we honest, humble, and self-aware enough to answer, “the critical style?”

In order to bring out the best in others and build character, the encouragement approach is far more effective. Not only is the feedback more balanced, but also people try harder when they work with someone they like and admire … with people who care.

The same is true when we relate to people on the same level—especially in our social relationships in school. If everyone took the encouragement approach to heart, can you imagine what that would do to the bullying statistics? Imagine people not feeling compelled to put others down in a misguided attempt to build themselves up? Where people would go out of their way to see the best in others?

Rachel Scott would have won a gold medal for demonstrating this leadership quality. In I’m Not Ashamed, we see a young woman with an uncanny ability to forgive and uplift, so much so that it will give you pause. I know it did with me, just as it did with her friends.

On that note, I can’t think of a more fitting way to close than by dedicating this song, Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up,” to Rachel. From now on when I hear this song, I’ll be reminded of her. I think you will, too.

Dennis J. Trittin is the President and CEO of LifeSmart Publishing, LLC and the author of What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead; and Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World. Learn more at http://www.dennistrittin.com.