A CRITIQUE OF CRITICISM

I don’t as a rule make new year’s resolutions. To begin with, I am fortunate to live in a community that celebrates a variety of calendars, with various “start” and “end” dates, so it can be a bit like groundhog day — with a number of options for starting over.

More to the point, I believe that today — this moment — is the time to be curious and enact change in our lives. Change should be revered for happening throughout the year and as an ongoing process of life; not to be carved out at a special time, with the added pressure of meeting or fulfilling an expectation, whether set by yourself or others.

This mirrors some of the dialogue that is currently happening in organizations regarding providing performance feedback. When making “giving” and “receiving” performance feedback (right there we are fostering an “us” and “them” mentality) an annual “ritual”, it takes out the curiosity, genuineness and authenticity of the feedback, making it more of a task than as a true opportunity to grow and develop.

However, I came close this year, particularly during a year end and start to theGregorian calendar for 2016 that was particularly difficult and challenging for many people, myself included. As part of my assessment on the events of the year, I have been observing my stress levels when following social media, specifically when reviewing the commentary that follows a post. 2015 was a big news year. At least that was my observation personally. This year it seemed like I watched more news, I read more news, I heard more news….I was directly or definitely within 6 degrees of separation from more news …. in general, I “consumed” more, across platforms and mediums.

My panoramic picture of life, and the world, begins to narrow

My observations were that I could start to pinpoint when my stress levels elevated and my hyperventilating escalated….. it was when I scrolled down into the comments. Very rarely did it not happen that there was some form of vitriol; “glass half empty”; bigoted/biased/misinformed/uninformed discourse that was painful to experience and entirely too bile laden.

And so……I made a resolution — new year or not — to no longer read the comments (or at least be more selective and mindful of when I do).

This decision, although designed to save me continued pain and anguish, saddens me in another way. Seeings things from different perspectives helps me to develop informed opinions of my own. I see life from my perspective, just like you see life from your perspective. Those vantage points have their definite limitations and monocular (at best binocular) point of view… To see and observe things from different lines of vision contributes to my ongoing development of understanding about views I do not have a reference point for or ways of observing life at odds or from a variety of angles than I have direct experience with.

When shutting out a true possibility of gaining access to others viewpoints, my panoramic picture of life, and the world, begins to narrow. I feel, and am, less enriched by the supreme diversity of who we are as a connected population.

Seeings things from different perspectives helps me to develop informed opinions of my own

However, I stand by my admitted lack of tolerance of those who comment and rale in disrespectful, hateful, and demonizing manners. I grieve for respect; for compassion; for empathy. But I will not curtail my curiosity….. I will not deviate from my destination. However, I elect to take another path!

Today — this moment — is the time to be curious and enact change in our lives

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To accompany the above, to follow is an excerpt out of “Rising Strong” by Dr. Brene Brown, on the subject of cheap-shot criticism:

CHEAP SEAT CRITICISM IN DANGEROUS. HERE’S WHY:

1. It hurts. The really cruel things people say about us are painful. Cheap-seat folks are season-ticket holders in the arena. They’re good at what they do and they can hit us right where it hurts: our shame triggers. For women, they’ll go after appearance, body image, mothering, and anything else that could dent be-perfect-and-make-everyone-happy expectations. For men, they’ll go straight for the jugular — any appearance of weakness or failure. This is dangerous because after a few hits, we start playing smaller and smaller, making ourselves harder targets. We’re more difficult to hit when we’re small, but also less likely to make a contribution.

2. It doesn’t hurt. We turn to the old standby, “I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks.” We stop caring or, at the very least, we start pretending that we don’t care. This is also dangerous. Not caring what people think is its own hustle. The armour we have to wear to make not caring a reality is heavy, uncomfortable, and quickly obsolete. If you look at the history of amour (as any history-loving vulnerability researcher would) you see a forever-escalating story of weapons and fighting styles. You cover every inch of your body with plate armour? Okay, we’ll start fighting with a tapered sword that can penetrate the small gaps. You cover those gaps? We’ll use maces that can cause injury through your armour. Not caring what people think is a hustle, and it’s not winnable.

3. When cheap-seat criticism becomes the loudest, most prevalent type of criticism we encounter, it pushes out the idea that thoughtful criticism and feedback can be and often are useful. We stop teaching people how to offer constructive, helpful feedback and critiques, and, in order to save ourselves, we shut down all incoming data. We start to exist in echo chambers where nothing we do or say is challenged. This is also dangerous.”

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