You arrive at a brilliant insight or an idea hits you. Consider it an aha moment. Then you immediately want to tell someone. Your eyes light up, and your words go a mile a minute full of enthusiasm. The words come to an immediately crashing halt. The person, who have chosen to share this aha, interrupts you. They barrage you with seemingly off topic questions. Finally, they make comments like, “That doesn’t make sense…” or “That won’t work…”

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Have you experienced a conversation like this? Instead of seeing the big picture, a person nitpicks at miniscule details. Rather than inviting conversation, you feel squashed.

How often do people experience nitpicking and squashing when they talk to us?

Context matters in our conversations. That means attempting to recognize how a person would like you to listen. In our greatest moments of enthusiasm, most of us look for support or encouragement. I don’t think we want to nitpick intentionally or squash. It happens without us recognizing it.

Providing feedback is as much about timing as content. Author and professor, Dr. Timothy George, has been quoted saying, “Grace precedes truth on purpose.” When we place being right over the relationship, we run the risk of not understanding the other person.

What are ways that we can avoid in our conversations with others nitpicking the details and squashing the ideas? Here are a few ideas:

1. Listen to all that a person has to say.

Interrupting, no matter the intention, will deflate someone’s insight they want to share. Listen with your body language especially eye contact. Give them the opportunity to be heard.

2. Repeat back what they just said to you.

When you listen, you can restate what they told you. You can start by saying, “If I understand you right, you…” They now have an opportunity to respond to you and many people appreciate the effort of understanding.

3. Ask an appropriate amount of questions.

There’s a gap between interrogation and thoughtful questions. Nitpicking can sound like, “Did you think about this or that?” Thoughtful questions invite conversation. They welcome the back story and look to the big picture.

4. Affirm the positive.

Look to the creativity in their thought process. Share with them what you like about their insight. Encourage them.

5. Seek permission to offer your feedback.

Wisdom recognizes the right time for feedback. You may want to take some time to think over what they have told you. They may ask for feedback right away. Look to offer grace first and then share the truth in a way that they can hear.

How have you avoided nitpicking and squashing in your relationships?

Photo Credit Ryan McGuire on Gratisography.