Praise in Public, Criticize in Private

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A Fundamental Concept in Defensive Firearms Instruction

-Kind Acknowledgement to Joe Kalil for his many years of developing instructors and demonstrating the “Praise in public, Criticize in Private” principle in every skill and certification course I have taken under his instruction.

Criticize With Care:

We have all been there at one point in our lives… a teacher, a parent or a spouse publicly rebukes you for something you did, and it tears you down.  You feel embarrassed, or hurt and you either shut down, or retaliate.  At the very least, you become resistant to the message being presented to you, regardless of its usefulness.

Public admonishment of a student under your tutelage in a defensive firearms class can have the same affect.  By publicly criticizing the performance or questions of your students, you risk building resentment against the topics and techniques you are teaching.  The manner in which criticism is given makes the difference between keeping a student engaged or making them resistant to the learning process.

When giving criticism, it is important that the only audience you have is the individual whom needs correction.  Have a private discussion.  This shows respect for your student and allows you to tailor the message in a way which reaches that individual student without interfering with your primary teaching styles.  Wait for a break period in your class or range time.  It is a better option than interrupting all of your other students in order to reproach or critique a student’s actions.

One MAJOR exception to the criticize in private rule is SAFETY.  IMMEDIATELY address any issues which place other students, instructors or safety officers in danger.

Praise Good Performance:

Whether we are comfortable with public adulations or not, people feel good when praised.  It builds confidence in the individual and creates a positive emotional connection to the person doing the praising.  Praise is a mechanism which improves a person’s receptiveness to a message you are presenting.
Give positive encouragement and praise students for what they do well and how they improve.  Public adulation is a great tool to encourage higher performance.  Public praise is also a tool to indirectly reach other students you are instructing.  It shows positive examples of how to perform a task or technique.  You reinforce the ideas and techniques you are teaching by pointing out good examples.

Public praise gives students something to celebrate together and encourages comradery.  It has the ability to increase the fun and effectiveness of your class.

As defensive firearms instructors, we are teaching skills that are supposed to protect lives.  It should be of paramount importance that we go out of our way to fully engage and encourage our students to be open to the message we are sharing.

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