Accepting Instruction / Correction / Ideas

We receive directions and corrections from two different sources, from God and from the people we interact with daily. First, we all understand that God gives us instructions, directions, and guidelines that are communicated through the Bible, the Holy Spirit, Bible studies, sermons, etc. We would all agree that it is our obligation and duty to obey God’s specific instructions and direction. The issue for me and I believe for many of us is God’s way is different from my way. I firmly believe that a subtle sarcastic remark putting someone who truly deserves it in their place is appropriate, God doesn’t! As Christians we believe that following God’s direction is not only the right course of action but also the best course of action, God’s way is always the best way practically, so we try our best to obey God’s way to the best of our abilities.
Proverbs continually tells us that God’s way is the best way spiritually and practically.
Proverbs 3:1 - My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart
Keeping God’s commands in our heart means we must forge God’s teachings into our character to be a part of who we are.     

Proverbs 8:10 - Choose my instruction instead of silver,

knowledge rather than choice gold,   

Proverbs 8:33 - Listen to my instruction and be wise;

do not ignore it.

Proverbs 16:20 - Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers,

and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.

Proverbs 3:11, 12 - My son, do not despise the LORD’S discipline
and do not resent his rebuke,
12   because the LORD disciplines those he loves,

We see that God not only teaches us but rebukes us when we don’t listen. Experiencing God’s discipline is not easy but we understand that God does this because

He loves us, as we discipline our children because we love them.
So again God’s way is the best way so let’s be obedient to His directions!     
So we agree with God correcting us, what happens when we receive the same ‘counsel’ from family, friends, co-workers, and others in which we interact, is it a different story? Generally, there are two groups of people that give us advice or instructions. The people that are close to us, like family and friends who we typically accept their thoughts, but not necessarily act on it and the people that we encounter in everyday life like supervisors, co-workers and others.
Proverbs 1:8 - Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.  

We are more receptive to our family members and loved ones that give us criticism, correction, and advice because this is out of love and a sincere desire to help. We should have open minds and hearts to this advice.
Proverbs 22:17 - Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise;
apply your heart to what I teach,
One more verse about what God says about not listening and reacting to correction. 

Proverbs 12:1 - Whoever loves discipline, loves knowledge,
but he who hates correction is stupid.

For whatever reason I do not have the same attitude about being corrected toward people that I do not know quite as well as my family, actually I used to have a closed mind to virtually all criticism. When I was a young manager I received a yearly performance review and every year under the comments section it said “does not take criticism well’, I responded by pounding on the desk and loudly shouting how unfair this was. (I didn’t really pound on the desk, but I did receive these comments).
Then God taught me how utterly ridiculous I was being. My goal should be and is today to be a better husband, father, employee, friend, etc. every day. How could I possibly do this without listening to the people that surround me, the people in which I interact, sometimes daily?
I was in a Building the Organization Development class when the leader proposed that we do an exercise that would help us in our self development. He suggested that we get our direct reports together and ask ‘what is one thing that I could do better that would help you improve your performance.’ In addition, during this exercise I was not to respond to the specific comments that the group made but just to listen and then evaluate their comments later, and then I could improve my performance based on their feedback. As I am always interested in improving my performance, I decided to do this at my next store manager meeting. So I got a flipchart and markers explained the exercise to my team and went around the room and ask each manager the question; what could I, as your district manager do that would help improve your performance? I was very surprised by the results, I did receive some comments that I expected: not enough recognition, not communicating all aspects of assignment to the detail that everybody understood, etc. however what I did not expect was what I considered unfair criticism. An example would be a store manager said that each time I came into the store I was especially critical of their customer service standards. My thought at the time was to say ‘well if you had very good customer service standards then I wouldn’t have to criticize you – would I!’. However, following the script, I did not make those comments but by the end of the exercise I was very frustrated and upset because of all of the feedback that I received from my store managers that some I thought valid but most not. But as I reviewed the comments later I had to keep in mind that the person who made the comments were sincere and believed them to be true. So I had to consider why these were said, so in a sincere self-evaluation effort I realized that these comments were more valid than I wanted to admit and from that time forward I did not quickly dismiss any critical comments and this has been a major help in my life.
In the last 20 or so years as a District Manager most of the good ideas, thoughts and processes I used came from someone else, but it didn’t matter to me because my goal was to be an excellent leader. I also was careful to ensure the proper credit was given to that person as an encouragement and to keep the ideas coming. I am so appreciative of the people that gave me these ideas and suggestions. If we ignore others criticism and suggestions we are missing out on great information. Proverbs has a great deal to say about this.
Proverbs 10:17 - He who heeds discipline shows the way to life,
but whoever ignores correction leads others astray  
Proverbs 13:13 - He who scorns instruction will pay for it,
but he who respects a command is rewarded.
Proverbs 13:18 - He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame,
but whoever heeds correction is honored.
Proverbs 9:9 - Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still;
teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning
Proverbs 23:12 - Apply your heart to instruction
and your ears to words of knowledge.

 We are also told to give corrections and instructions to others.

Jesus says in Matthew 18:15-17

15“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Proverbs 28:23 says,  ‘He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue.’
And when it comes to our children: Proverbs 22:6 says:
Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.

What is the best way to give someone your advice and criticism? We start with making sure our motives are pure, that our heart is right.  Then we determine a plan on how best address the issue. Criticism that is delivered during the emotion of an event is usually not helpful. The plan should include where and when the discussion should take place, what is the issue and how do I address it in a well thought-out rational way. But you also have to plan for their response because there will be a response, and then stay focused on your theme. I had a corrective conversation with one of my store managers that I thought was totally justified and she would probably agree with me about her performance on a particular matter. This was not the case; she became very upset, so upset I did not finish the discussion, but we both decided to revisit the conversation after we had given the matter additional thought. Several days later I was near her store and decided to stop by and have a reconciliation conversation because I was sure she had reconsidered her position and knew I was right. Understand that I thought I was clearly correct on my decisions. So I sat down with her to start this conversation, and she lit into me again. This issue was eventually resolved, but you have to be prepared if the conversations do not go as you expect because most will not!

Matthew 7:1-5 says:
1“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Paul tells us to be gentle, to be prepared, to encourage, be patient, and careful. All of this is biblical and great practical advice.
Galatians 6:1-2 says:
1Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

*Read in 2nd Timothy 4:1

1In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

In conclusion, we often do not address issues immediately because we hope a particular situation will resolve itself, but it seldom does. Then as time progresses and the situation escalates we get really upset. Address the issues when they are small.
Do not exaggerate issues when you are giving a correction. Keep the focus on the issue, not the person. When the other person responds critically, stay focused on the issue. Ultimately many people will refuse your correction. That’s okay, but it is our duty to try.

These two skills ‘accepting critical remarks’ and ‘knowing how to give constructive criticism’ are essential in improving your communication skills.