I heard a speaker the other day open his talk with a joke. Jokes aren’t inherently bad, but I definitely counsel my clients to avoid them when natural humor or stories are available. But here it came. The punchline of the joke involved a disgraced public figure. Not only does she have a tarnished image, but significant legal headaches and criminal accusations to go along with it.

But wait, there’s more. The punchline also involved a racial stereotype. Not necessarily a bad, demeaning stereotype, but still…

Ordinarily when I’m an unknown in the audience, I keep my mouth shut (those who know me well doubt my ability to do that) and I have come to overlook communication faux pas rather easily. But this one stuck with me, because I had some insight into the heart of the communicator as well as the image he wished to portray.

So I called him on it. His position afforded me (and Google) the luxury of finding his email, and I reread my composition several times before sending it. Its tone was very “you may wish to consider“. I’ve done this a handful of times and usually been sent a defensive reply. Or worse.

I was surprised to read the open of his very quick response: “You are absolutely right, and I stand corrected. Thank you for taking the time to help me improve.” He went on to offer a defense, but his overall tone was one of acceptance and thanks. And this from a guy who is a professional speaker who has attained more public success than I’ll probably ever have.

Those kinds of folks make the greatest students. They are able to see past their strengths and take advice and coaching on how to get better. I can only hope that I could be as gracious when I receive a tip/advice/criticism the next time.

If someone is vulnerable enough to offer advice, we should…

Figure out what we can learn from others.

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