We all know the old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” and we all know it’s rubbish. Words don’t break your bones, but they can break parts of your soul, which is infinitely more precious than bones.
I was reflecting on this while considering how you give advice. Do you sail in stating exactly what someone should do, pointing out all the things they are doing wrong, or do you edge around the subject, never quite actually saying what you feel, or do you take the criticism sandwich approach and slide your advice inside two compliments.
I try to do the latter (emphasis on try!). I also try not to dole out unsolicited advice as there is nothing more annoying, other than when I believe it is necessary.
The other day two people said much the same thing to me but in entirely different ways. The first delivered in a heated discussion made me defensive, and closed. The second delivered kindly with empathy during a supportive conversation made me reflect upon my behaviour and see that point of view. It’s not what you say but how you say it…
So, if you see someone doing something with their horse that you think could be dangerous, or simply just not going to work, before you sail in all guns blazing consider how to approach it. For example someone is trying to load their horse on a slippy yard with lots of shouting. You could sail in with “don’t be stupid that’s not how you do it!” or you could say “horses that don’t load are really tricky, I had a horse that didn’t load, shall we help you move your trailer to an easier space and get some treats and stuff?”
You still might not get anywhere with the second approach, but you certainly increase your chances of having some chance of the person considering your suggestions.
So remember be careful with your words, for while they may not like sticks break bones, they can like arrows, wound.