How to Correct Someone

This commentary won’t be funny so much as it will express something I happen to feel very deeply about.

I was a trainer at one time. I always believed that it was my job not only to tell my trainees what they did wrong, but what they did right.

I have also been a trainee many times. Most of my trainers did not subscribe to the same point of view. One trainer I had, in a sort of a cashier-ish job which I will not describe in detail, stood behind me as I dealt with customers and walked me through each part of the process by ordering me to do the next step before I had the chance to start it on my own, while employing a tone of voice that suggested to anyone listening that I had forgotten what to do. At the end of every customer interaction the trainer would thank the customer for their patience, and apologize for the inconvenience and my mistakes.

Someone asked me later what it was like being trained by this person. I said, “If (name redacted) were a track coach, (he or she) would train people to run faster by running behind them and shoving them forward.”

To tell someone when they’re wrong and not tell them when they’re right is to give them incomplete information. A fuel gauge doesn’t just tell you when your tank is empty. It also tells you when the tank is full.

Note from Missy: I suspect we’ll all have stories about this one. One time I was being trained in a task by a coworker who I found to be loud and grating in general. She perched over my shoulder and watched what I was doing like a hawk. As I was typing things, the occasional typo would slip out. As my right pinkie went up toward the backspace key, she’d shout, “AH-AH-AH, UH-UH, YOU MEANT TO TYPE X.”

I’ve only ever cried a couple of times at a couple of jobs, and every time it’s been out of sheer anger and frustration. She was one of the ones who made me rage-cry.


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