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The Red Strokes

I hated the red pen.

You know the one I'm talking about.

The red pen that marked all my wrong answers. That brightly proclaimed every grammatical error. The red pen that smugly declared the value of my half-hearted efforts at the top of the page.

The red pen judges me.

A 2010 study led by a Tufts University graduate student named Michael Slepian tested the difference between using a red pen and a black pen.

“Participants in the study were given incomplete words and had to fill in missing letters. For example, ‘fai_’ could be completed as ‘fail’ or ‘fair’; 'wro_' could be ‘wrong’ or ‘wrote.’ Those using red pens completed 28 percent more word-stems with words related to errors and poor performance than did people using black pens. 'The idea is if you are holding a red pen, the failure-related words come to mind more easily,' says Slepian.”

Isn't that interesting?

And other studies have produced similar results.

That got me thinking.

Am I a "red pen" person? Do I look for opportunities to call out the weaknesses of the people around me? Do I enjoy correcting their every error? Am I the self-proclaimed expert in too many conversations? Do I enjoy the bright red strokes a little too much?

Often, I do. Not always, but too often. I tend to see shortcomings before I see strengths. Quicker to criticize than to compliment.

The problem is "red pen" people never seem to run out of ink.

I don't want to be that way. I'm putting my red pen down.

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