Bad Starts and Language in Book Six: Trying to Hold On 2019

  • Dec. 16, 2019, 8:53 a.m.
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(1) Martha is taking Nala to the vet this morning. I hope the puppy is okay. She seems like she’s doing better but it would be awful to ignore this, feed her, and have her vomit 10 or more times today as well. I mean, she’s a small dog. Vomiting all day could kill her.

(2) I did not get off to a great start today. Woke up. News. News is full of stupid people doing stupid shit. News is full of terrible people doing whatever the fuck they want to and not being held accountable. News is full of terrible. Social Media. Same story. Work e-mails… same story. So… I started my day already emotionally exhausted by the horrors of this world. Good thing I have an entire day of criminally bad parents/children today followed by 4 hearings tomorrow and 27 hearings on Thursday and a severe Sexual Assault of Minors sentencing on Friday. Yup. Start the week sickened by the nightmare of human existence and get to experience it all week long.

(3) I consider many people on this site fairly intelligent. We’re able to read and write and while many consider that a “decent standard of basic” it is an achievement of the mind that should not be taken for granted. That being said, words aren’t exactly easy. Especially as words leap languages, timelines, and even emotional significance. For example, if I say the word law… due to my job, people would likely assume I meant the codified legal rules as decided by a government body. But even a word like law can have different meanings to different people.

I want to discuss the concept of constructive criticism because I think it is far too easy to mistake the concept. Many assume constructive criticism is the same thing as “criticism from a good place” but I would argue that it is not. If I care deeply for someone and don’t want to see them get hurt, I can say “Don’t sell this painting, it is atrocious!” But that isn’t constructive criticism. I may be saying it “from a good place” because I don’t want to see someone I care about fail, get hurt, go through a negative experience. But my comment was in no way constructive. And if my friend is upset with me for my comment, I should understand why they would be upset… if I am at all an empathetic, decent, or sensitive person. Because while my comment may have been well intentioned; it only managed to insult my friend’s work. CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM is the process of offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about the work of others, usually involving both positive and negative comments, in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one. Therefore, in the previous example… I need to integrate positive and negative and remain friendly instead of oppositional. Like: “I don’t think you should use this painting in your show next week. It captures your experimental use of color well, but it lacks a more commercial appeal. Definitely a signature piece but are you sure the market is ready for that?” Now… if my friend gets upset with that comment? As the speaker, I should still be understanding and accepting that criticism may upset someone, even if constructive. BUT I would also hope that my intentional use of constructive criticism would be met with an understanding response so that, even if my friend is upset about my opinion, they don’t feel personally attacked or defensive.

This type of approach is ever so much more important when discussing something that I know the listener may be especially sensitive to in the first place. For example… let’s say my friend has been working his ass off trying to lose weight. They’ve managed to lose 20 pounds and wanted to see if their favorite old pair of pants fit again. They do not. The friend asks my opinion. “How do these pants look?” Now, if I was an asshole, I could say “They look like they’re going to explode!” If I was a bad friend, I could say, “They still make you look fat.” BUT knowing that my friend has been working hard and is particularly sensitive about this matter… I’m more likely to try to handle his feelings carefully while sharing my opinion and would likely say something like, “Not quite there yet. You’ve been working hard and I know you’ll fit these, but we’re just not there right now.” Positive and negative and friendly.

Too many people try to hide behind the “I just say true things” bullshit to hide behind their social ineptitude, awkwardness, or cruelty. But, especially if criticism was not requested, throwing shade at someone isn’t “a sign of being a good person” simply because you feel like you are “keeping it real.” Seriously, I hear this from Defendants all the fucking time. You aren’t a “bastion of truth and beauty” just because you decide to be a jerk to someone. Kindness costs nothing.


stargazing December 16, 2019

Kindness costs nothing, but it can be difficult. I was listening to Tom Hanks speak about the Mr Rogers movie, and while speaking about Mr Rogers, he reminded us that we must work at being kind...and that even Fred Rogers had to work at it. That made me feel somewhat better, because while I like to think of myself as a kind person, I sometimes really struggle to be kind towards certain people. We could all do better.

DE_KentuckyGirl December 16, 2019

Yes!!

Ginger Snap December 16, 2019

I agree. I could use some practice being constructive. I try very hard to be, but it was good to read this.

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