The motivation of other people is a challenging task. As someone who spends a fair amount of time and effort motivating myself for self-improvement, I find that I tend to greatly resent when other people seek to influence me. There are a great many people one finds, unfortunately, who fancy themselves to be good at helping other people to be better, when it appears in reality that such people really relish the supposed freedom to not have to be polite to others. As I mention often, one of the appeals that people find with power, and that is power of any kind, is the freedom to not have to kowtow to the feelings of others that mere plebs have to face. Of course, this means that there is frequently an asymmetry where we desire to show candor to others free of restraint but still demand that others restrain themselves when it comes to communicating with us. We all like to critique and criticize–and this is certainly true of me–but no one wants to hear others criticize us.
This has as lot of consequences. To the extent that we are aware of our own desire to criticize others while not hearing their murmuring and discontent in response, we can act in a way that better relates to other people. For example, the ideal way to respond in a way that works to increase our influence with others is to curb our own tendency to carp and criticize while being patient with the tendency of others to do so, recognizing their human frailty, but it is hard for us to do so, and even more difficult for us to do so without indulging in the pride that is so corrosive of our fellow feeling with other people. How, then, is one to deal with the problem of murmuring? Leaders may regularly dislike the murmuring they get from others, but the murmuring is communication about how people are feeling and what needs are not being met. There are, to be sure, better and worse ways of communicating ourselves, but if someone is communicating something with you, that is something to appreciate, even if that communication comes in an imperfect form and with imperfect tone.
It is striking to me just how important tone is in how I take what others have to say. The same thing can be said in a variety of ways, and I find myself very sensitive to when things are said poorly. There is a great deal of frustration nowadays with people who find their communications criticized for tone policing, as if it was a bad thing to tone police. But we all tone police, and I must admit I am more vigorous about tone policing than is even the norm. When we communicate something, we have to be conscious of whether we are communicating for our own benefit or for that of others. To the extent that we genuinely care about influencing them, it is vital that we police our own tone because others will be policing it for us if we do not take the trouble to. If we are speaking to release our own internal stress and to get something off of our chest, then we should not be surprised that others disregard what we have to say because we are not really speaking for their well-being but for our own. If they are wise, and we are seldom wise, people can pay attention to what insights are being provided even if poorly expressed, but it is quite frequent where such communication is wasted for not being done the right way.
We might say, therefore, with some confidence that the worst way to discourage murmuring is to complain about it. Let us not forget that Moses lost his chance to enter into the promised land because of his angry response to the murmuring of the Israelites the second time that they asked for water to come out of a stone, failing to give credit to God. To be sure, the Israelites would have driven even the most mild-mannered leader to extreme rage with their continual whining and complaining, but we can never forget that the failure of others does not justify or excuse our own failure. Others will be judged for their failures, and we will be judged for ours. While it is our tendency as human beings to judge us on the curve, God will judge us according to His standard, with mercy, but by His standard nonetheless. We might therefore say that if we desire others not to murmur and complain, the worst thing that we can do is to complain about them in a sarcastic or unfriendly mood, and the best thing that we can do is to model uncomplaining behavior ourselves. To model good is so much harder than it is to complain about the bad, though.