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One of the most basic concepts of human relations is that people hate criticism. We hate it worse than poison, and we avoid it like the plague. When you criticize me, I become hypersensitive. If you whisper, I hear it as loud speech, and when you speak quietly, I hear it as if you are shouting in my ears. Being aware of this is vital in choosing the method, tone, and words with which I approach my friend. The mitzvah of tochacha is to help my friend improve. Without a strategy that is sensitive to human nature, even the best of intentions will backfire. To succeed in this mitzvah, I need to choose my words very carefully, making sure they are as soft and non-offensive possible. This is the second requirement of the mitzvah.

The reality is that this is a very difficult mitzvah to perform correctly. Typically, we find ourselves either not wanting to get involved or saying things that cause more harm than good. But when the driving force in doing this mitzvah is concern for the good of our friends, and we carefully study human nature and choose our words guardedly, Hashem will help us to perform it properly.

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The new Shmuz book “Stop Surviving and Start Living,” is available in stores, at www.TheShmuz.com, or by calling 866-613-TORAH (8672).

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