Taking Constructive Criticism is Crucial to Get to the Next Level

From the heart...
Taking Constructive Criticism is Crucial to Get to the Next Level...


My son Kole is the kind of kid who, from a young age, never, ever stopped talking, moving, wiggling, or running. If he was in the room—you knew it. Everyone always loved him because he was one of the friendliest, chattiest kids around. That infectious laugh and bright smile lit up every room he walked into. As a mom, I was proud to have such an active son, even though it could be a bit exhausting. Which is one reason why, every summer, I would try to find fun activities for the kids. 

When we lived in New Canaan, the word on the street was to have your kids attend the Knechtle’s (pronounced: Kin Nect Lee) Summer Sports Camp. I found their program online, paid the fee, and voila! Kole was signed up.

Here’s a Snapshot of the Knechtles and Their Camp

Cliffe Knechtle is the dad/husband. Sharon is the mom/wife. They have three sons: Robert, Stuart, and Ian. The whole family is athletic and some of the kindest people you will ever meet. Cliffe is the senior pastor at a church in town. Sharon, his wife, is his sidekick. But I didn’t know any of this when I dropped off Kole for the first time. Because we lived in a small town, I trusted those who spoke so highly of the summer program, and that it was a safe place to leave my talkative son.

Summer Camp Drop Off Day

As I drove up Smith Ridge Road to their home for the first time, I wondered what was in store for Kole’s first day. I also thought about how their property could’ve been a model for a Norman Rockwell painting. It was so picturesque. 

They had two entrances to their property. One was marked “enter” and one was marked “exit”. Pulling into the entrance I am driving down a dirt and gravel mixed driveway. An older semi-kept-up tennis court is to my right while the neighbors sprawling property is to my left. The driveway makes a horseshoe configuration, hence the two entrances. There are two homes on what looks to be at least 10 acres. One is clearly where we are dropping off our kids and the other, I find out later, is inhabited by Cliffe’s mentally handicapped sister. 

I wait in the line of cars while moms greet their camp leaders (Robert, Stuart, and Ian), their helpers, and Sharon. I see Sharon from three cars back. She’s blonde like yours truly. She’s wearing black workout pants with a tie dye t-shirt and flip flops. Her teeth are so perfect that they make her smile shine even with the sun out. “This is my kinda girl!” I say to myself.

I inch my way up and now I am first in line. “Hi, I’m Lisa Najarian. This is Kole, my son. You are the cutest thing and I love your t-shirt!” 

“Awww thank “ewe”. Y’all new here in New Canaan?”

OK, you can always warm my heart with a Southern accent. I just love Southerners. 

“Yeah, we have been here for a month. I don’t want to hold up traffic, but I have your number from the website. Would you like to meet for tea or a walk or something sometime?” 

“Yeeeaaahhhhh, I would love that. Gimme a call”. 

If you recall in one of my girlfriendships blogs, I was always the perpetual new girl so I have taught myself how to make friends pretty darn easily. And so with this summer-camp-drop-off-of-my-talkative-and-active-son, it began—my lifelong friendship with Sharon Knechtle.

Opposites Attract?

Sharon is the opposite of me in many ways. I’m very organized, an overachiever, and tend to be very quick to do almost everything. Sharon is laid back, takes time to stop and smell the roses, and tends not to have a daily plan—she just goes with the flow. 

The dichotomy between the two of us worked really well for a very long time—until it didn’t. And it was because Sharon was perpetually late. When I mean late, I mean like hours late. I don’t think she knew the meaning of fashionably late nor was she trying to imitate Liz Taylor. 

But despite her tardiness, Sharon is one of the kindest people you will ever meet—she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. Her voice was also so endearing and loving. That’s why I stuck around for so long without saying something about her always being late. I feared I would hurt her feelings and I would lose her friendship. But I was wrong to do that, and here’s how I know. 

The Story About How I Know I Was Wrong 

Pete, Kole, and I (Lex was away at college) had decided to move to Minnesota to be closer to family. I had not told many people because I wanted to tell each of my friends individually and in person. So I asked Sharon if she wanted to come over for dinner on a Saturday night. Pete was out of town and Kole had plans with friends, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity. 

I spent the day cleaning out closets. One pile for charity. One pile for throw away. One pile to pack. That Saturday I was so proud of myself. I cleaned out and packed all of the closets upstairs and then started in the dining room with the same procedure. Charity, throw away, pack. It was a successful day. I was exhausted and accomplished. Sharon was supposed to come over around six o’clock and I was looking forward to a hot bath and bed by ten.

(I remember this day like it just happened because it hit me so hard knowing I had to tell her we were moving. It broke my heart. Plus I knew I had to confront her about her constant lateness. It happened too often, made me too mad too many times and needed to be addressed.)  

Sharon 4:30pm phone call: “Cliffe and I are on a bike ride. Are we still on for tonight?”

Me: “Yes ma’am, can’t wait to see you.”

Sharon: 6pm text: “I’m gonna get in the shower and then I will be over.” 

Sharon: 7:30pm text: “I will be over soon, just talking with Cliffe.”

Me: “It’s just too late. We will have to reschedule.”

Sharon: “Wow, that’s really too bad… (I can’t remember verbatim what else was in her text, but whatever it was forced me to pick up the phone and let her know my thoughts.)

Me, phone call to Sharon minutes later: “Hey it’s me. I’m calling because I need to confront you on something. I have been working all day cleaning out closets and packing because we are moving to Minnesota in a month and we have a broker’s open house on Tuesday. Our house goes on the market then. I have been getting ready for Tuesday all day today. That is one of the reasons behind me having you over for dinner tonight. You were supposed to be here at six and it is now an hour and a half later and I am exhausted. I am also angry that you have been inconsiderate in not respecting my time by being late many times during our friendship.”

Sharon: “Wow, I had no idea. I’m so sad you are moving. I’m sorry.” 

Here’s why I know I was wrong not to confront her on this earlier in our friendship: Sharon owned every ounce of what I said to her. She came over on Monday morning and looked me straight in the eye and thanked me. I was shocked! 

She went on to say, “I spoke with Cliffe about what you said, and he is in full agreement that I need to be more mindful of others’ time. We are both so sad to see The Najarians leave this town.” 

The Story Gets Even Better

The following Sunday at church, Cliffe themed his sermon on confrontation. He didn’t tell our story, but I knew exactly what he was referring to. I cried. He specifically spoke about Matthew 18:15-17. I was relieved. I did something right for two great friends who shared commonalities and differences and we loved each other just the same. 

This is Why Taking Constructive Criticism from Others is Required to Get to the Next Level

Here’s my opinion about confrontation with friends. I think it can be very necessary. I lightly say “can be” because some friends become defensive and the “victim”, and some friends own their actions and appreciate the knowledge so they can grow. I have dealt with both and lost many friends. I am not always “right” in a confrontation. I’m not very eloquent when I speak. My voice tone is not always pleasant. And I’m not always the best at delivering my message as I have intended. To say I am often misunderstood is an understatement. 

But I also know that I saved my friendship with Sharon because I was willing to say what I needed to say (paraphrasing John Mayer there.) That was six years ago, and we are still loving friends. We are both so grateful for one another!

Back to the Summer Camp

Of course, Kole loved his stay at the Knechtle Summer Sports Camp for that summer and a few more. We became great family friends with that kind family, and spent major holidays sharing dinner at each other’s homes. We definitely got to the next level with them. Very constructive! 

I love that you were with me today. See you next week! 



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