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03 December 2008

Telling It Like It Is

When I was pretty new to recording engineering, I decided I'd go to a recording studio other than the one at which I worked, to record one particular song. I'm not sure why I did that. I think that I wanted to be the recording artist for once rather than the engineer, too -- not to have to sit in the chair at the mixing board with a mic in front of me, set levels, plug compressors and things in, hit record, and then use a footswitch to "punch in" the notes that were wrong (a method in which one sings or plays and records over only the sections that were bad the first time).

The song was a complete and utter stinker. Embarrassingly bad. It was unfortunately called "Forgive Me" and was written to be a guy-sings-to-girl-to-prove-to-her-that-he-has-emotions-too ballad. I don't recall the whole thing, but I do recall its general horrendousness.

I sat in the control room with the engineer and his girlfriend, listening to playback of one of the "acceptable" vocal takes, and I asked the girl what she thought about it. I believe she said, "I think it's sweet," and I remember the look of hesitation on her face (she may have thrown up later; I'm not sure). When I grilled my then-girlfriend (now-wife) about it later as I made her listen to the tape 473 times, she made this moving statement in response: "I like it."

It took a long time for it to dawn on me, but after my wife and I were married and I'd just played her yet another one of my original songs and she repeated the "I like it" mantra, I stopped the tape and said, "Callie, you always say that. What do you really think about this song?" She proceeded to tell me just what she thought. It was blunt and it definitely wasn't "I like it." And I was very happy! From that moment on she hasn't hesitated to tell me what she really thinks about the music I record (at least, I think she hasn't...).

This past Sunday afternoon following the second service, a friend (and reader of this blog) came to me and said, "Dean, I have a problem." He proceeded to kindly but directly let me know of something that he had an issue with -- something that was in my area of responsibility. I listened, and as I did, I thought, "You know what? He's got a great point." So I apologized, said that I would correct it, and I thanked him for letting me know.

I'm not bragging on myself for accepting criticism -- not at all. I'm bragging on this friend in a huge way. Rather than talking with friends and getting an assessment of whether they, too, thought that this thing he brought to me was a problem, venting to them, letting it fester, etc., he immediately came to me and directly stated his point of view. Phenomenal!! And this guy is a non-confrontational type.

How many of us don't do that? I'd say that our lives in general may be warped enough so that we sometimes don't know when our talk is gossip and when asking about a consensus opinion is actually stirring up discontent. I may disagree with a person voicing his stance, but I need to know. And I need to listen.

"If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back." - Jesus, in Matthew 18:15 (NLT)

People in your church fellowship and leadership need to hear from you if you have an issue with how they are ministering (or not). If you fear you're becoming a squeaky wheel, then examine your heart first, and go to them squeaking if you have to. But do not complain to someone else about it first.

Another important fact: people in your church leadership need to know when you are happy with what they're doing or how they're acting.


Leroy said...

Good stuff! I really like the "examine your heart first" part. That's something we don't do nearly enough.

For the record...our staff at Wall Highway Baptist Church in Madison, Alabama is fantastic [almost used the word 'awesome' :)]!!

Jan said...

I am extremely tender hearted and can take criticism personally so i have had to grow in this area but I have definitely improved over the years. But one thing that does upset me extremely is the knowledge that people have "discussed" this and now elected a spokesman to come tell me. that just embarrases the stew out of me. Maybe it shouldn't but being talked about negatively does hurt.

I agree - it's great when someone just says "can i talk to you?" and we go on from there.

I also agree with letting people know what you LIKE and APPRECIATE. This is the honest truth. I can tell you what will be written on a negative comment card - it will be either: 1) the music is too loud or 2) I couldn't hear something or 3)it was too cold or 4) it was too hot or 5) it was too dark, never changes.

But I almost never get an email or a comment card that is positive- that lets me know what someone appreciates or enjoys or even how God touches their lives.

To be honest, if I went by what people told me, i would only know what they do NOT like.

I think that is sad because then we risk not even knowing what is good and effective and meaningful.

Anonymous said...

Criticism is a two edge sword: If all we do is focus on the negative; then it is only the negative that we will see. We will blind ourselves to the positive.

Strangely enough I learned this valuable lesson from my years in the military: Do not complain or critize unless you propose a possible solution to the problem.

Criticism, when used correctly, will develop are better product in the end.

Finally, criticism should never be a personal attack. As my mom said to me when I was growing up, "If you don't have anything nice to say, DON'T SAY IT!"


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