I would have made fewer enemies, over the course of my life, if I’d learned this one secret: People feel threatened when you shine a light on their flaws.
By late high school, I had figured out the most obvious applications of this concept: Don’t correct teachers, and don’t point out minor errors in a story.
But “shine a light” is way more subtle than that, and I’m still learning all the possibilities.
Making suggestions can imply that a person was doing something wrong. Requesting something can imply that a person neglected to provide that thing already. Offering to help can imply that I don’t trust a person’s ability.
Sometimes, those implications are true. More often, though, it never crosses my mind that they’ll read into it that way.
That is, until I get a mysteriously snide reaction – which is amplified if the conversation happens in front of others. They minimize me to build themselves up, because I tore them down.
I didn’t mean to.