No… it’s not an episode of “When Animals Attack.” I’m talking about a confrontational therapy tool from the 70’s. These cloth-covered foam encounter bats were used for anger and aggression release, allowing two people to have a “safe and fair fight”. They could also be used to hit pillows, chairs and in my case… little brothers.
My mom was willing to try anything to get me and my brothers to stop fighting, so she bought a couple of these bad boys for her, uh… bad boys. She told us to use the Encounter Bats when we got mad, instead of wrestling and punching each other.
They looked innocent enough, and we welcomed the opportunity for a legal hit. The first few clonks on the head were kind of fun. Soft and cushy. But after repeatedly banging on each other over the next few weeks, the foam center wore out and actually tore loose inside. The hard plastic core could now be fully felt… if you swung it hard enough. (Talk about having a major breakthrough.) It only took a few more body blows from the “kid-safe” bat before I went crying to mom.
This reminds me of the way people sometimes criticize each other. At first your words may be constructive, soft and cushy, with no intent to harm. But if you repeat the same criticism often enough, it starts to feel a little hardcore to the recipient.
Here’s something I learned at Toastmasters. If you’ve got a constructive critique for a co-worker or family member, start with something positive, then deliver your suggestion for improvement, and finish with another positive. Then let it go.
It’s up to that person to receive it and act on it. You’ve done your part by offering your perspective and it’s time to move on. If you keep delivering the same blow over and over again, it’s going to eventually touch the core… and someone’s going to go crying to mom.
Just something to think about. Did I mention that you look nice today?