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Be A Fan And A Critic

I saw Rev. Michael Beckwith perform a re-commitment ceremony for a married couple a few years back and it blew me away.
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I saw Rev. Michael Beckwith perform a re-commitment ceremony for a
married couple a few years back and it blew me away. He looked at the
husband and said, “Your job is to be her biggest fan and her
greatest critic for the purpose of her spiritual development.” He then
turned to the wife and said the same thing to her about him.

As simple of a concept as this was for me to understand, I’d never
heard anyone say it quite like that before. As what he said fully
registered with me, I was moved deeply and began to cry. I realized
that so often I’d struggled with what felt like my conflicting desires
to share my love and appreciation with my wife Michelle and also to let
her know when something didn’t work for me or when I thought she was
“off” in a certain aspect of her life. I noticed that I was usually
quite “hot or cold” about this – either being totally focused on
appreciating her or totally focused on being critical of her (or
withholding my feedback so as to not hurt her feelings).

Hearing Rev. Michael say this made me realize that appreciation and feedback are essential not only for
the health of a relationship, but for the personal growth and
development of each person as well.

These two important things – being a fan and a critic – are often seen
as opposites when we look at them from an adolescent perspective. But,
upon deeper reflection, it becomes clear that they’re intricately
connected and fundamentally important for the success of not only a
marriage, but any important relationship with a
genuine sense of trust, connection and authenticity.

Our ability (or often inability) to express our genuine appreciation
for someone else is directly related to how safe or comfortable we feel
giving that same person critical feedback. In other words, the more
open we are to giving and receiving honest (and sometimes critical)
feedback in a particular relationship, the more capacity we have to
express and experience genuine appreciation for that person. And
when we don’t feel safe or comfortable giving someone honest feedback
(or we just aren’t willing to), it actually diminishes our ability to
acknowledge them in a real way, and it ultimately diminishes our
relationship with them in general. Our goal is to be a real fan and a conscious critic with the important people in our life.

What it means to be a real fan

Being a real fan of someone in our life means that we focus on what we
appreciate about them (i.e. look for the good stuff) and are willing to
let them know in a loving and generous way. It’s essential that we
acknowledge them without agenda or because we want something in return
(for them to do something for us, say something to us, or even like us
more). Acknowledgements with agenda are manipulations, not acts of
true appreciation. Being a real fan of someone else is about
celebrating them, recognizing their value (whether or not we like or
agree with them all the time), believing in them, and reminding them of
their greatness.

What it means to be a conscious critic

Being a conscious critic of someone else means that we’re willing to
say things that might be scary or may even potentially hurt their
feelings, but we do so anyway (with kindness) because we’re interested
in having a relationship with true depth, trust, and authenticity.
Being a conscious critic is not about being critical or judgmental
(both of which can be hurtful and harmful to others and to us), it’s
about being able to share things that get in between us and other
people (i.e. “withholds”) and also about giving them feedback that can
help them be the best possible version of themselves. It can be a
slippery slope for many of us on either side of this equation, but if
you think of the most meaningful and important relationships you’ve
ever had in your life, you’ll notice that having the freedom to give
and receive critical feedback in a productive, positive, and kind way
is almost always an essential part of that relationship.

Here are a few things you can think about and practice to expand your
ability to be a real fan and a conscious critic with the important
people in your life:

1) Use Your Relationship GPS
– Many of us have GPS systems in our cars or on our phones these days
that help us not get lost. However, whenever we find ourselves lost in
our relationships or lost in our ability to appreciate people around
us, we can think of “Acknowledgement GPS.” In this case, GPS stands
for Genuine, Personal, and Specific. Whenever we acknowledge someone,
we want it to be Genuine (come from our heart and mean what we say),
Personal (appreciate something about them personally and based on their
personality – knowing what will have them feel appreciated), and
Specific (some specific quality they have or thing they’ve done, and
how it specifically impacts us or makes our life better).

2) Clear Your “Withholds”
– A “withhold” is something you’ve been holding onto with another
person that you haven’t shared with them – hurt, resentment, feedback,
fear, an apology, an acknowledgement, or anything else. You can do
this with your spouse, friends, family, co-workers, or anyone else.
One person goes first and says to the other person, “There’s something
I’ve withheld from you.” The other person responds by saying, “Okay,
would you like to tell me?” Then the first person expresses their
“withhold” with as much honesty, vulnerability, and responsibility as
possible (i.e. using “I” statements, owning their feelings, etc.). The
other person’s job is to listen with as much openness as possible, not
to react, and to just say “thank you” when the first person is done.
It’s best to do this back and forth until both people have shared all
of their withholds with each other. When you’re done, one or both of
you may want to talk about some of the things that were said, but that
isn’t always necessary. This is not about debate or someone being
right or wrong, this is about being able to share how you’re feeling
and what you’ve been withholding as a way to release it and also to
give the other person some important feedback in the process.

3) Ask For What You Want
– It’s essential that we ask the people we’re in relationships with for
the specific kind of appreciation and feedback that we want from them,
and how we like to receive it. The clearer we are about what we
want from the people around us (and more willing we are to find out
what they want), the more likely we are to have authentic and mutually
beneficial relationships. I’ve gotten myself into trouble (and still
do at times) when I assume to know how people want to be acknowledged
or what works for them in terms of getting feedback from me. Not
everyone is like us (as hard as that is for some of us to realize), so
we have to negotiate this personally and specifically in each
relationship so that we can honor people’s needs, desires and

Have fun with this and be kind to yourself and others as you engage in
this process of being a real fan and a conscious critic. While this is
an essential aspect of deepening and enhancing our relationships and
is also something that most of us truly want (even if it may make us a
little uncomfortable), it can be tricky and scary, so be aware of this dynamic and have compassion for you and those
around you.

Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info -