Unhelpful Criticism

“I don’t mean to use such harsh words, but this look like something our China team would come up with.”

Please tell me what in this phrase is a helpful direction? What does that even mean? I guess you would have to be a racist to know.

Clearly, my boss really struggles with giving constructive criticism.

This particular phrase really bothers me, firstly, because it speaks badly of a team that the owners of the company chose to work with overseas and that we are trying to have good communication and relationship with. I haven’t ever seen our China team come up with a design, and if they work for us and were chosen by our leadership, why are you insulting them? Aren’t we all working for the same goal? Aren’t we all supposed to be on the same side? Saying things like this puts a bad taste in the domestic team’s mouth and just makes you look racist.

Secondly, “don’t mean to use harsh words,” is not an excuse to then use the harsh words. You do mean to use them. We all know it. It only makes people more aware of how much you actually mean to use and are going to use harsh words. It means you are aware of how you sound. It means the words you have chosen to use, were selected and intentional to be harsh and you know it. Foolishly, you are trying to remove yourself from your own responsibility, which is an indicator of bad leadership. To be a leader is to have responsibility, and to show you wish to remove yourself from the responsibility of your position and the tact you know you ought to have while holding it lessens your dependability.

Constructive criticism doesn’t use “I” or “Me” statements. It explains why a design or photograph does or doesn’t work based off of brand goals and statements. It doesn’t use insulting analogies. It builds up where it needs to and it makes helpful….emphasis on helpful…suggestions to give a better direction.

Consider this a public service announcement.

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Memorial Day Weekend

Milwaukee is not an area I’m very familiar with, and since the accident I was not very willing to drive on the interstate to get there. Still, we had made plans. Plans to visit our friends who had just bought a house and desperately wanted us to come see it since we had gone for so long without being able to see them all winter because of bad weather. I told my husband I didn’t want to drive. I always drove and after the accident I wasn’t ready. He said he would as long as we found a route that would get us there that didn’t involve the interstate he would do it.

We found a route but it was adding nearly an hour and a half to our trip. I pleaded with him since the weather was nice and there was ardor traffic that the interstate wasn’t a bad ride, that only if he tried it it wouldn’t be that bad. It really wasn’t. I told him I’d even drive it he felt like he couldn’t because I was so certain that the route the gps was taking us was just over the top too far.

“I’ll get on the interstate.”

So he did, and I was so proud of him.

The hard part for me was trying to figure out how to encourage him, without inflating his ego. Driving on the interstate is something very normal. It really doesn’t feel like something a person ought to be praised for. Yet, I knew it would be something he ought to be praised for to encourage him to do it again. I talked to him about it a bit.

“Baby, I’m really proud of you and want to encourage you to drive more on the interstate, but I also don’t want you to think that driving on the interstate is a big deal in general. It’s actually a pretty normal thing that people do and fairly frequently. I don’t want you to think you’re some kind of hero for doing it.”

I worded it poorly I know I did. It I didn’t know how else to say it. He didn’t seem completely deflated by the statement, but I could tell I had put him off a bit. I ended up driving us home after our overnight with friends, and what a drive home it had been.

Of course, once again we hit some freak rain, and it was just as hard as the day we had our accident. I breathed deeply and pushed through though. Dropping my speed and making everyone go around me. Then suddenly, the semi in front of us hydroplaned into the ditch, which of course got me shaking and nearly in tears, but I pushed through going ten under the speed limit until the rain subsided. My husband offered to drive after that, but I was white knuckling the wheel so hard that I just told him I’d take us the rest of the way home. Just to prove to myself that I could.

The situation made me swallow my words to my husband earlier. Maybe a person is a hero for driving on the interstate? Maybe people don’t do it all the time? It’s terrifying. The speeds are high. The weather can be treacherous. The drivers can be more so. The whole circumstance not only made me realize how hard it can be, but just how much I had been affected from the accident and how much I needed to have that moment in the rain to prove to myself that I could do it again. Just like my husband did when driving us to our friends house.

I had belittled his bravery as well as my own, and done a disservice to both our psyches. Needless to say, we are healing as much as we can considering how near to us the accident is, having only been a couple weeks ago.

Friday to Saturday

It was in the hours of that morning that I sat listening to thunder overhead. The office was warm while I kept the door closed and I found myself quite alone. Finally. He was upstairs on third taking product photographs … Continue reading

Great Creative Expectations

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People Suck

Why can’t people just be happy for her? It was her third marriage. People kept reminding her and anyone else who would listen to their mouth flap.