Owls are a symbol of wisdom.  But what about a rabbit?  In the Disney classic “Bambi”, Thumper the rabbit imparts words of wisdom that have been quoted by thousands of mothers to their children.  Thumper was criticizing Bambi’s ability to walk, and his  mother reminded him that his father had said just corrected Thumper that morning about being critical…

“Mrs. Rabbit: Thumper!

Thumper: Yes, mama?

Mrs. Rabbit: What did your father tell you this morning?

Thumper: If you can’t say something nice… don’t say nothing at all.”

Great advice from parents to their young children.  We don’t want to raise kids who can only find the wrong in a situation.  But does that mean we can NEVER recognize when something is wrong, faulty or failing?  Not at all.  But consider this tweet from Jeff Bezos on a recent “60 Minutes” interview.


So then what should be our strategy when we find something that needs changed, fixed or discarded?

Be Honest- Make sure your criticism isn’t rooted in something unproductive.  Is your complaint founded, or do you have another ax to grind?  If so, BACK OFF.

Be Objective – Help yourself be honest by discussing your concern with a couple of trusted, informed and wise counterparts.  Who can you talk to that is brave enough to challenge you if you aren’t being objective?  Yeah, talk to those people.

Be Proactive- Don’t wait for things to completely explode into a million pieces before confronting an issue.  How can you purposefully bring an early warning or concerned check to an issue that could be explosive later?  Try doing THAT.

Be Encouraging.  If you back people into a corner with accusations and shame, they only have 2 options- collapse in shame, or come out swinging.  How can you make addressing the concern a “team approach”, and a “win-win” in finding and implementing a solution?  This may force you to put your ego in check, but that’s OK.  Very few of us aren’t in need of an “ego check” from time to time, so take it in stride, and then focus on relationships being the fuel for solutions, rather than relationships serving as doormats for you to walk over.

If you can’t something nice, don’t say anything at all?  Maybe so.  But let me quote from another Disney sage. “A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down,” sings Mary Poppins.  Medicine is a vital part of our health, but it doesn’t have to gross us out or make us run away.  Neither should your complaints or concerns in your relationships with other. Bezos was right when he said, “Complaining isn’t a strategy.”  So figure out what your strategy is going to be.