Constructive Criticism in Close Quarters
Being with and seeing the same people day in and day out may, at times lead to a difference of opinion. No doubt. Rather obvious. So, how do you work through thorny issues, etc.? In The Path of Civility, I share a perspective from the Buddha’s Pali Canon presented by Bhikku Bodhi.
“What may be considered the most challenging form of speech to render civil is what Bhikkhu Bodhi touches upon last in his section devoted to proper speech. The issue is the reproaching of another. In the Anguttara Nikaya, rather than the Buddha himself speaking, the words uttered come from one of his disciples, the Venerable Sariputra. Although Sariputra is addressing monks, the same five points regarding the admonishing of another apply as the most civil way to do so in any circumstance.
“(1) He should consider: ‘I will speak at a proper time, not at an improper time; (2) I will speak truthfully, not falsely; (3) I will speak gently, not harshly; (4) I will speak in a beneficial way, not in a harmful way; (5) I will speak with a mind of loving kindness, not while harboring hatred.’” (Footnote 6)
But what if one is at the receiving end of being reproached? Here, the Buddha says that regardless of how that reproach is delivered, listen to it with no malice and assess the truth of what is being said on the merit of the facts. If you find what is said to be true, take heed and work to overcome what is unskillful in your own speech and action. If you act accordingly, more than likely the fact that you heeded the reproach will, in the future, make the one who did so unto you, an ally.”