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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Back to Normal

Three weeks really isn’t a very long time to be without a second vehicle, but when you feel like all you’re doing is driving around most of your day, it really does feel like an eternity.

I don’t know how people do it. How do they spend 24/7 in the car? How do they do the hour commutes in and out of cities for work? I don’t even like driving 5 min to my work! Still trying to figure out how to get each other to and from work has meant that we are spending a lot of time in a vehicle, and because our functioning vehicle is mine…I’ve been doing much of the driving.

On the up side, my husband and I have had to spend a lot more time together in our car rides. We really couldn’t go places without each other very much, and in general couldn’t really spend time outside of one another or with friends because of needing to pick up and drop off each other from work. Which has been nice. We haven’t had a ton of time to be together and relaxed usually, and often drives home from work and around town are great times to just goof off and talk like human beings instead of at home when tasks need doing or alone time is required.

It’s gotten us to talk more, mostly because it gave me a good opportunity to trap my husband in one place and make him think about stuff and talk to me about his feelings. Of course we talked about other things, like about what kind of things we like in vehicles and processing the accident and helping each other heal little by little. We had lots of hard conversations too, like talking about getting a loan to buy a new car, how unsupported I felt when we were getting the loan because of how upset my husband felt about being in debt, and good long cried together because of how much I hate feeling afraid of driving now, when I already didn’t like it much to begin with. Oh, and of course, we talked about movies, since it’s my husband’s thing.

Now that we purchased a new car (an hour ago) it’s going to be a little different. Finances will be a little tighter. No more need to spend so much time in a car. No more long drives and long conversations (bit of a let down). A little more freedom to move about daily life, without feeling the time constraint of picking someone up and dropping them off. I can hang out with friends again without feeling guilty I left my husband home without a vehicle. No more late nights of having to pick him up, and no more days where he has to bike to work or walk and I have to worry if he made it to work on time.

Hopefully things will go back to normal.

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.

An Ideal Accident III

The more I reflect on the accident and the more my husband and I talk about it, the more we find to be thankful for.

This is probably really odd to say, but it’s too true to ignore and we can only attribute it to small miracles and God’s protection.

One of the first miracles was that we were not hurt. Every time I think about the accident I consider all the things that could have gone wrong and didn’t. No gas leaks. No broken glass. No air bags went off to cause us further injury. We made it out alright all things considered. Minor bumps no some whiplash that is being dealt with and healing nicely.

Another miracle was having the accident just over the border from a no-fault state. Had we been a couple miles behind where the accident occurred we probably would have been slammed with a ticket or twelve (especially for being an out-of-state plate). Not to mention we were close enough to family that we could get off the road and moving forward to home right away without either of us having to drive in our shaken state since my aunt drove us to meet my dad half way at a job site he just happened to have near that area.

With how busy that road was….we never hit anyone else. That never ceases to amaze me when I saw how many people were around me as I was losing control trying to hold my lane. Because when we stopped spinning it was like all the traffic was gone suddenly. The road was clear for a while as we got out and assessed the damage. That makes no sense outside of supernatural to me because there were lines and lines of cars around me and behind me and then suddenly none. Even as we assessed the damage of our car in the rain, there were suddenly few to no cars so we could be safe for a little while.

The insurance has been easy. Words I never thought I’d ever say. Mostly because of no other vehicles being involved. In two weeks we have money in our hands to get the vehicle we need with more coming once it has been purchased. We have no expenses being charged to us because the deductible was met. We got no tickets because the accident was an “act of God.”

I’m not sure if the accident was an act of God, but everything else certainly was. Certainly the circumstances surrounding it were. The people who came into our situation to help us out, the “coincidences” and the timing were all too perfect to be accidental. My husband and I have found a great deal of growth in this struggle, and it has been a blessing, even while difficult. I’m learning to be more giving when organizing how each of us will get to and from work. My husband is learning to adapt, communicate, and make hard decisions…all things he has struggled with in the past. I’m learning to set limitations for myself, which have been good, and hard for me because of the pain in my neck and back. I’m usually all go, and this has made me slow down as having only one vehicle has done as well.

Another miracle has been how my husband and I have been able to have consistent work schedules that are so similar and jobs so close to one another, that we have had no issues with having only one vehicle. Yes, there is a bit less freedom in it, but it has been good for us to learn how to plan better and organize our days more to get us to the places we needed or wanted to be. It also makes us spend way more time together and we’ve been growing our communication because of it.

In all, things have been okay, now we face finding a car for my husband before winter, which while a while away, really isn’t as far off as it seems. I hope that goes as smoothly as everything else has.

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