A positive approach to negative criticism

What do you do with negative criticism? Our first reaction might be to dismiss words that tear us down.

Instead of ignoring the negative criticism, I want to absorb those words. Consider them, know the rationale and source behind the negative comments. Perhaps the fault lies within me. Instead of defending my viewpoint, I want to understand the other person’s angle. This is done by encouraging a dialogue to learn, mostly by listening and listening, and listening some more.

A real-life example
The past week has been rather interesting for my blog. I wrote a quick blog post about ice falling off the Apple Store roof in Chicago. This post got a bunch of media attention, bringing many criticisms of my observations. I’ve been reading all the comments, listening, and digesting them.

My blog posts do not get large media attention. Nor do I have a large following. When I write, often my posts just simply get posted with no comments. I don’t have the intention of starting a huge public ruckus with my posts. I’m simply expressing myself for the small group of friends and people online who do graciously follow me.

Just because my blog doesn’t get much traffic is not an excuse to not analyze what I am publishing. Anything has the potential to get spread around. I greatly appreciate all the comments that have been left. Whenever someone responds do what I have written, I totally eat it up. I love comments.

With this post in particular, I wrote it in a snarky and dramatic manner. Thus, I should have expected likewise responses from people. Many comments have called me names like snarky, fake news, a quack, clickbait, a d*ck, and tedious p*ssy. I read those, and my heart sinks. But okay, I’ll listen and consider.

Many good points were made contrary to what I wrote:

  1. Chicago has falling ice signs everywhere. This is pretty common here in the winter.
  2. The roof didn’t have a design flaw, there was just a software glitch in the roof that didn’t melt the snow properly.
  3. Even if it was broken, it’s ok for things to be broken. Designs can have shortcomings.
  4. Apple doesn’t do the engineering of their building roofs. That’s done by engineers.
  5. Engineering consultants aren’t perfect and work only within a small window.
  6. I didn’t interview the Apple store for their point of view. I simply stated my own.
  7. I wrote the post in a negative manner.
  8. No positive solution was given.

To most of those points, I responded back to people thanking them for their viewpoint, and explaining where I was coming from. However, most important is not my reaction, but what I do with other people’s feedback.

My resolution
As a result of this experience, I am setting a new resolution for this year. When writing, I will be more positive, and be on the lookout for being negative. I will view things from a constructive angle, and share the optimism. People have told me in the past that I am a very optimistic person, so I would like to shine through. In this case, I wasn’t optimistic. As humans, we aren’t perfect. Optimistic people sometimes cast shadows.

Perhaps more dangerous is labeling myself as optimistic. As if that’s some sort of shield that allows me to do whatever I want. “Oh! But I’m an optimistic person, that was just a quick post.”

We can’t rely on a fixed mindset of what we claim our identity is. Instead, we need a growth mindset where our actions that speak for themselves. I hope in 2018 I will actively grow optimism in the world.

The names still hurt me. Perhaps they should, because I brought some acid into the world. I’m tempted to just say, “those people are jerks!” But actually, I’m encouraged that so many people are on the watch-out for snarky blog posts. When they see one, they call it out. They are expressing that they don’t want such negativity in the world. I am born in the Generation X where cynicism and snark is commonplace. But today’s youth sees that negativity and rejects it. I’m glad to see that people want to see more constructive viewpoints rather than destructive ones.

Thank you, people of the internet for being a watchdog of non-constructive viewpoints.

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4 years ago

I’m thinking maybe I need to do the same – be a bit less wicked in my commentary around the web. People have been telling me for year that I am Sheldon from Big Band Theory, but I had never watched the show until my wife and I started binging it recently. Sure enough, I am more like Sheldon than maybe I should be, particularly in regards to the condescension he often heaps upon his friends. It seems I know a little bit about a vast array of things. Things most people don’t care about, or don’t care to know. That doesn’t stop me from telling them anyway and sometimes they are offended. Don’t like being shown (told) they might be wrong I guess. So I will strive to find ways of enlightening folks without rubbing them the wrong way, but I will still share my knowledge.

You idiots are going to get it either with sugar or with vinegar so just shut up and let me talk.

Now see, that right there. That was wrong. Sorry.

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