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 Weatherproofing is that inclination to "improve" others by bringing to their attention certain small defects.  It is a troublesome tendency that many of us work a lifetime to overcome.  ( So far, I have managed to restrain, but not eliminate, this impulse.) It becomes so easy in casual conversation to make a “small suggestion” for improvement. We hardly notice we've done so. And, of course, we always can claim the best of intentions: “Only trying to help.”   

Weatherproofing emerges from the disposition to look for flaws rather than strengths in other people.  It can be an occupational hazard of parents, teachers, counselors, and all types of advice-givers, those who believe it is their duty to point out and eradicate others' short-comings.  Like carpenters inspecting buildings for cracks, weatherproofers look at people for what needs improvement without realizing that, unlike lumber and window-frames, people don't like being fixed.     

Modern psychologists refer to the weatherproofing tendency as “mote-beam projection,” which has its basis in the New Testament scriptures in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 6, verses 41-42. “And why beholdest thou the speck that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the log that is in thine own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye?”   

The late Tibetan meditation master Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche used to say that "the first law of spiritual development is: ‘Don't make a nuisance of yourself'."  He meant that all of us have so much work to do on ourselves, we can't get to it if we spend our energies "improving" other people.  In short, "Stop your weatherproofing and mind your own business."  (You've still got a lot of work to do on yourself.)   

I was reminded of this wisdom a few years ago at a memorial service for an elderly woman as friends and family reminisced aloud about her extraordinary acceptance of all types of people. This wise woman had the unusual gift of being able to accept people exactly as they were.  She never pointed out flaws.  She simply looked for, invited, and expected, their best.  As friends told their stories of her transforming impact, we relived what we had felt in her presence -- the power of unconditional acceptance.    

When we see ourselves as the center of the world, we judge others by what we have and they lack.  "I'm prompt; she's late," we think. "I'd better point that out.  And that, and that."  Thus some spouses make their partners feel like projects-to-be-improved, parents make their children feel like flops and failures – the weatherproofing process in action.   

Instead, we might choose to drop our judgments and begin again a better project, one that will probably continue to the end of our life -- seeing how we are connected to -- and one with -- all others.   That will take as much mindfulness as we have available, and it will be worth the effort.  


Loren Ekroth ©2012, All rights reserved.

Loren Ekroth, Ph.D. is a specialist in human communication and a national expert on conversation for business and social life.

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