Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Unnecessary Correction: On Being a Conversation Editor

Photo Credit: cellar_door_films (Creative Commons)

This is how it begins. Someone has made a statement in a conversation, and then it happens:

The unnecessary correction. Noun. A criticism of the factual content of someone's comment in casual conversation, able to put any healthy dialogue to a blistering halt.

I know how the unnecessary correction works because I'm a naturally gifted corrector.

In my high school and college years, I was naive to the fact that my seemingly helpful corrections were, in fact, prohibiting relationship. I thought I was doing people a service, showing them the error of their ways and opinions. Who wouldn't want to be steered onto the right path? And I was a great steerer. From historical facts to theological questions to movie trivia to intricacies of personal stories, I was a fantastic editor for the people around me, particularly for my then-girlfriend/now-wife. If she was inadvertently mistaken in her information or opinion, I made sure she knew what was right.

You can see the arrogance. I wasn't correcting people to help or bless them. I was correcting them in order to appear right to others around me. Correct. Authoritative. Superior. It took some wise and loving individuals to correct me and my editorial habits. Their exhortation didn't come from a casual conversation or a throwaway comment; it was careful and gracious and for our relationship's benefit.

I don't want to be a conversation editor. The self-motivated criticism and edit of someone else's comment in conversation is never worth the cost of friendship.

Are you an unnecessary editor in conversation? Do your comments foster further conversation or shut it down? How can you give grace to others around you today, whether you're the corrector or the corrected?

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