” A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith;sees your anxieties but frees your spirit;recognizes your disabilities but emphasises your possibilities.”
William Arthur Ward
When I was a small child my grandfather (PePa) took several of us to a small country store. We were each allowed to buy a piece of candy but bubble gum was forbidden. PePa always had a pack of Juicy Fruit chewing gum when we came visiting but for some reason he just didn’t like bubble gum.
I eyed my choice which was a piece of candy that looked like a big round jaw breaker. I knew inside that it had a bubble gum core but when he asked me if it was bubble gum I said no. Back in the car as we neared the farm he apparently saw that I was chewing bubble gum and simple said, “I think somebody told me a story”. That was it. No lecture. No spanking. No restrictions. Just “I think somebody told me a story”. Nearly fifty years later, his disappointment still stings. I learned a lesson about honesty that has been a guiding post for me throughout my life.
There is another lesson to be learned here however and that is the power and impact of saying nothing or at least very little. It does not work in every circumstance but in situations where there is a lot of trust or love or history, the mere acknowledgement of the infraction is generally enough to make a lasting teaching moment. The continuation of a brow beating session after the acknowledgement may actually begin to tear into the fabric of the trust/love relationship that already is in place.
In high school I played multiple sports but especially loved football and baseball. Our rival team in both sports was a neighboring town named St. Cloud. At that time there were only two high schools in our county so the rivalry was at times bitter.
During a baseball game as I slid into one of the bases I came in with my cleats a little high, not a good show of sportsmanship. I played third base on defense which put me in close proximity to the opposing team’s coach who was also the base runner coach positioned at third. I do not remember anything about the game other than this head coach saying something to me like “Gary you are better than that”, referring to when I slid in with my cleats too high. He didn’t have to say anything more than that. Even as the coach of the opposing team, I knew he respected me as an athlete and I knew that I had disappointed him. Again, 40 years later I remember that teaching moment when, with very few words, he helped me be a better person.
HighFive Your Life Principle: When possible, teach using the least amount of words and don’t be afraid to let silence be your partner.