Threats and Warnings

People will often make “idle threats,” but seldom do they dispense the Grace inherent in a well-grounded “Warning.”
– John Gualtieri

“Johnny, clean up your room or you’re going to lose your cell phone for an entire week,” said Mom! And you guessed it, Johnny fails to clean up his room because he has come to learn that Mom is simply making an idle threat. “Susie, this is the second time that I’ve told you to clean up your room, and if it’s not immaculate within the next 2 hours, I will suspend your cell phone privileges for an entire week, just as I did last month, said Mom.” Susie promptly goes about the business of cleaning up her bedroom, because she knows Mom is issuing a serious warning!

The example that is being used here is (intentionally) unsophisticated, but it does illustrate a profoundly important principle – in life, and in business, people seldom respond to threats. But, people always respond to a warning, and there is a HUGE difference between the two. A threat is nothing more than the skin of a warning stuffed with a lie! The recipient of a threat knows that the person who is dispensing the threat has no intention of carrying it out. And a threat is always charged with high-voltage emotional juice.

A warning, on the other hand, is issued with full intentionality. The recipient of a warning knows, without doubt, that the one who issues the warning “means what he/she says,” and will execute consequences without hesitation. A warning is always accompanied by a deadline, and that deadline is never negotiated.

If we pause to think about this dynamic, whenever we issue a warning, we are literally extending Grace to the recipient. We are giving that person an opportunity to change course and avoid the consequences of his/her actions.

I have learned to steer clear of issuing threats altogether; threats have no “teeth.” I have also learned that a well-grounded warning always results in a proactive response on the part of the recipient.

Am I willing to forgo the emotional indulgence inherent in making idle threats, and begin to dispense the Grace inherent in a well-grounded warning?

© John G. 2021

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