Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Girl's Best Friend (Is a critical friend!)

Although the old adage claims that diamonds are a girl's best friend, I tend to disagree. What do those shiny, inert rocks really do for you anyway???

In my mind, the best friend a girl can have is a critical friend. Put simply, a girl needs someone to tell her when, despite her best intentions, her message isn't effective.

In an Educational Leadership article from 1993, Costa and Kalick define a critical friend as:
A critical friend can be defined as a trusted person who asks provocative questions, provides data to be examined through another lens, and offers critiques of a person’s work as a friend. A critical friend takes the time to fully understand the context of the work presented and the outcomes that the person or group is working toward. The friend is an advocate for the success of that work.
A few weeks ago, I met someone who took an interest in me and my work. Using a fresh set of eyes, this person reviewed many of my blog posts, my TEDx talk, and a few other things. And although it was a bit hard to hear, this person told me that my message was a little confusing. More importantly, he noted that some elements of my delivery and vocabulary were condescending.

At first I thought: Me? Condescending? Never! <-- here.="here." indignant="indignant" insert="insert" look="look" p="p">
But then I looked at my work again. And again. I began to notice that he was right. I wasn't building enough rapport with my audience and I certainly didn't spend enough time breaking down tough concepts or ideas.

However, merely recognizing this weakness wasn't enough. I went straight to work, thinking about a workshop that I was planning to deliver to a group of teachers the next day. I carefully and thoughtfully inserted several activities and messages to build rapport and generate participant confidence.

At the end of the day, one participant wrote the following on her exit slip: "At first I thought we would be talked down to, but now I think that we are valued."

Success! Yup, a girl's best friend is a critical one.


  1. Kristen, that is such a great lesson of the importance of having people in your life that can honestly tell you the truth. We can't always see ourselves as clearly as someone on the outside. I also think it speaks volumes about you that you not only accepted the feedback but you immediately made changes and put it into action. Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing your story with us!

  2. Thanks so much for reading! I'm so glad I put it on paper and shared it. It's all part of the learning process!



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