The search for a semblance of authority or the desire to be overly helpful can promote dubious social behaviors. Nitpicking, excessively correcting, and constantly interrupting others are examples of negative social behaviors that are often born out of a genuine desire to help. Team members – whether fellow colleagues, students, or business partners – can often develop a bad habit out of the constant desire to correct others on their team.
Their need to constantly pick at small mistakes or inaccuracies often serves to take away from the learning experience than add onto it. Whether their intention is to stand out or to legitimately share information, their nagging desire to constantly correct others discourages collaboration. Such individuals infuse a sense of anxiety within those around them and often serve to take the air out of a positive collaborative environment.
This article is a guide on how to deal with individuals on your team who’ve developed a bad habit of constantly needing to correct others.
Absorb Criticism Without Explaining Your Way Out of It
One of the most common reactions to being corrected is to defend oneself and explain why the mistake was made. This can be tempting, especially if the correction is unwarranted, inaccurate, or rude. However, this can also escalate the situation and make the corrector feel more justified in their behavior.
A better approach is to absorb the criticism without arguing or justifying. This means acknowledging the correction, thanking the corrector for their input, and moving on. This can help diffuse the tension and show that you are not affected by their nitpicking. It can also signal to the corrector that their feedback is not very helpful or welcome.
Absorbing criticism without explaining your way out of it can be challenging, especially if you feel that you are being unfairly targeted or judged. However, it can also be empowering and liberating. It can help you focus on your own goals and performance, rather than on pleasing or impressing others. It can also help you avoid wasting time and energy on unnecessary arguments or conflicts.
One example of how to absorb criticism without explaining your way out of it is to use a simple phrase like “Thank you for pointing that out” or “I appreciate your feedback”. These phrases are polite and respectful, but also neutral and non-committal. They do not invite further discussion or debate, but rather close the topic. They also do not imply agreement or disagreement with the correction, but rather acknowledge it as a fact. By using these phrases, you can show that you are listening and learning, but also that you are confident and independent.
Add Resistance by Asking Them Questions and Putting Them on the Spot
Individuals who get into the habit of constantly correcting others can develop a false sense of confidence in their own knowledge on certain subjects. In their attempts to correct others, they will inevitably make mistakes of their own.
Allowing such individuals to talk more than they listen is a good way of exposing their own lack of knowledge.
A way to deal with team members who love correcting you is to assume the interviewer role and ask them to back up their claims with evidence. If they are constantly pointing out errors or inaccuracies in your work, challenge them to provide sources or data that support their corrections. This will force them to either admit that they are not sure about their own statements, or to do more research before they speak.
It will also increase the amount of effort they need to put into correcting others and they will learn to anticipate needing to back up their corrections with evidence. Adding resistance in the form of questions or requests for evidence is a good way to limit their unchecked desire to constantly correct others.
The Standard They Hold Others to Will Be Expected of Them
A taste of their own medicine will become a common occurrence should such individuals continue to nitpicked at everyone else’s input in group settings. You can kickstart the process by holding them to the same standards they hold others to when it is their turn to provide input.
One way to do this is to ask them to elaborate on their points and provide examples to back them up. This will put them in a position where they have to justify their opinions and show that they have done their research.
You can also point out any flaws or inconsistencies in their own arguments or statements, and invite them to correct themselves. This will show them that they are not infallible and that they need to be more humble and open-minded.
Encourage Them To Fall Deeper Into Their Bad Habit
This may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes the best way to deal with a team member who loves correcting you is to let them do it more often. By encouraging them to voice their opinions and feedback, you are giving them a chance to feel heard, valued, and also judged.
You would be creating an opportunity for them to learn from their own mistakes and realize the negative impact of their behavior on others. Since they would now be the ones being judged, the lessons they learn from being corrected and their input being nitpicked may strike a chord.
Another way to do this is to give them more responsibility and autonomy in their tasks. For example, you could say, “I trust your judgment on this issue. Could you please take the lead on this part of the project and report back to me on your progress?” This way, you are empowering them to make decisions and solve problems on their own, but also holding them accountable for the outcomes. You are also giving them a chance to experience the challenges and difficulties that come with leadership and collaboration.
By encouraging them to fall deeper into their bad habit, you are not only giving them a chance to grow and change, but also creating a more positive and productive team environment by treating them how you want to be treated. Rather than being harsh when they’re under the spotlight, you should be stern but positive and helpful. Their perspective will now be from a position of vulnerability and the example you set in being helpful and lenient will be more effective.