The Salt Shaker Principle

In life, sometimes people will do something wrong. (Spoiler alert: humans are human!)

We have all at times most likely been on both sides of this and have experienced the guilt of own wrongdoing and also the frustration or shock when dealing with the actions of others.

So what do you do when you catch someone in the act of wrongdoing? Our natural reaction might be to point it out publicly and humiliate the guilty party. Or sometimes we will be courteous and wait to chew them out one-on-one.

The problem with either approach is that we silly humans tend to react defensively when backed into a corner. Rarely do we think to ask why something was done, but instead just focus on the accusation of the wrong action.

How should we handle such situations? There is much wisdom and love in giving someone a way out.

Winston Churchill provides us with a wonderful example of a giving someone a way out when the guilty party was clearly guilty.

“During dinner for Commonwealth dignitaries, the chief of protocol approached Churchill and quietly informed him that a distinguished guest had slipped a silver salt shaker into her pocket. Rather than confront the dignitary about the salt shaker, Churchill guided her out of earshot of the other guests and pulled out the matching pepper shaker from his pocket. ‘Oh dear,’ he said in a guilty-sounding voice, “We were seen! Perhaps we’d better both put them back.”

The crisis was averted. The stolen item was put back. In that moment, the culprit realized Churchill knew the truth, but he was allowed a moment of grace.

Research shows that people are more likely to choose the desired outcome when they believe they are choosing for themselves. In contrast, people are more likely to resist when they are told what to do. Anyone with a teenager witnesses this daily.

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