After several years of watching friendships melt down -- and others succeed -- I am beginning to see some regularities. This document is as much advice to myself as it is a roadmap for people wanting to be my friend.
I try to mitigate the problem with two strategies: First I avoid getting into such a predicament. I can be responsible for what I do, but let the client be responsible for the other suppliers. That way it becomes their problem if the suppliers screw up, not mine. But I can't always do that. The other strategy is to figure out ways to soften the blow when delivering necessary criticism, like "Do you suppose you could do it this way?" Relationship experts recommend, "Attack the problem, not the person." This is good advice.
Another way to deal with the problem -- this really runs against my
grain -- is to allow for failure. There will always be circumstances I
cannot control; I just need to remember that other people is one of them.
I can get more creative inventing ways to take
the blame when the other people screwed up. No wonder American products
are so shoddy.
Public persons are fair game, so long as what I say about them is true. Everybody launching missiles at anybody needs to make sure what they say is based on objective criteria, not suppositions of what somebody might have been thinking (but not saying). So I can criticize Bill Gates or Presidential wannabes or the banker by name.
Otherwise, I mostly try to describe my victim in general terms that
could apply to any of several individuals, and often does. If what I say
is true and accurately describes you, then it's about you and you should
clean up your act. If there are discrepancies between what I posted and
yourself, then it's not about you, don't get your dander up.
Hypocrisy nullifies criticism. Jesus said so.
Of course I have been known to fail the same way. If I am offering a
criticism -- recall, I am trying not to do that at all -- finding me to
be hypocritical is a valid defense. But claiming it does not make it true,
and I probably already thought about the similarity; you must be prepared
for me to explain why the behavior I condemn is different from what I do.
Me, I don't do that. The ledger is still there, but if you admit your
mistakes and promise not to repeat them, I will consciously believe you
and wipe them off the slate. God
commands me to do that, and I take His command seriously. You don't even
need to admit to anything, as long as the promise to prevent future recurrence
is credible. Of course if you refuse to promise to desist, that is the
same as a promise to [feel free to] repeat the offense, and I will be inclined
to put up a wall and iron bars around you for my own protection. I consider
the teachings of the Bible in this
matter both reasonable and workable.
Early in my career I became competent in programming tight (small) code for the new "itty bitty" computers. One of the early adopters of the technology asked the manufacturer to recommend a programmer, and my name was offered. I went in for the interview, and after seeing their engineering diagrams, proposed some suggestions for improvement. The design engineer showed how his design was better in those points, and thus earned my undying respect for his technical competence. He likewise obviously felt the same about me; I once visited him in his mortgage-free million-dollar mansion, and he commented, "I owe this house to you," a reference to the success my software gave his company. We were good friends for several decades until his death a couple years ago.
An asymmetrical relationship still needs respect. The student needs
to respect the teacher's knowledge or he will not learn. The teacher needs
to respect the student's ability and will to learn, or he will not teach.
Even the slave respects his master's whip and the master respects the slave's
rev. 2007 November 13