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Daily Prompts are a program for bloggers to inspire creativity and stretch a writer’s voice in areas where he/she might not travel on their own. Once in awhile, I hope to tackle the challenge!

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The Prompt: Sad but True – Tell us about the harshest, most difficult to hear — but accurate — criticism you’ve ever gotten.

Here is my story-

From Jr. Kindergarten way past high school, one of my best friends was another Jennifer. As we got older, we had a typical “on and off” girlfriend relationship. We’d be friends in the morning, mortal enemies by noon, and best friends again by the end of the day. We both excelled at school, almost competing with each other to see who got the highest mark on a test, or who the teacher picked first to answer a question. (On a side note, she’s the reason I hate the name Jennie – we were in the same class in Grade 7 and the teacher got tired of calling on “Jennifer” and we’d ask “which one?” It didn’t help that we usually sat together too! So she devised the plan that she’d be Jennifer and I’d be Jennie. That was fine until I met a Jennie I really didn’t like and it spoiled the name for me forever)!

There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition in a friendship.  But sometimes it wasn’t so healthy… Jennifer sometimes had the gift of “one-upmanship”. That is to say that if I received an award or a compliment, she would have to come back with her own (better?) achievement. For the most part, I just let it go. But this one time in Grade 7, for some reason, I didn’t let it go and I “one-upped” her. Even as I was talking, I knew it was wrong, but the words just kept tumbling out. Jennifer had been taking guitar lessons and she received an award from her teacher the night before. Instead of congratulating my friend and being happy for her, I blurted out some stupid achievement of my own. That’s when she told me I was being a bad friend, that I should have been happy for her instead of thinking of myself – and she was absolutely right! She was excited to share her news with me and instead of being excited too, I robbed her of some of her joy. I had disappointed her. Instead of encouraging her, I discouraged her.  I hadn’t been a very good friend.

Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change wrote: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” I’d like to say I’ve never again been guilty of “one-upping” another person, but I know it’s happened, and I’m not proud of it. Jennifer’s accurate assessment has encouraged me to listen to more than the words – to also listen to the heart behind the words, , and when I reply, I encourage more because I want to be a better friend.