NO MORE: “Constructive Criticism” – Killing The Lie!

Bird of PreyPoerksen (2010) provided sage counsel regarding how language plasticity leads to tyranny. Unfortunately, when discussing criticism, the tyranny of “constructive criticism” is displayed, and it is time for this lie to end, permanently!  Let me state, for the record and unequivocally, criticism never constructs positive behaviors!  Criticism doesn’t change simply because an adjective attempts to make criticism less harmful.

Criticism

Criticism defined, provides key insight from the common definition, “The expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.”  Disapproving based upon perception and expressed through words, looks, actions, and behaviors; this is criticism, and the best people in the world to criticize are the British.  IIf I call the British extremely critical and claim that is a compliment to the residents of the British Isles, those in Scotland and Ireland will understand, and no adjective in the world can make this criticism “constructive.”  As a point of reference, I draw this conclusion about the British from history, but knowing that does not make the criticism less accurate or less painful. On the contrary, I think the British have come a long way in changing their critical behaviors, actions, and manners and applauding them for their growth.

NO FearThe remaining definitions in the term criticism expand nicely upon the point that criticism and being critical can never be “constructive.”  “The analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of work.”  “A person who expresses an unfavorable opinion of something.”  The etymology of critic, which is the root of criticism, comes to us from Latin criticus, from Greek Kritikos, from kritēs ‘a judge’, from krinein ‘judge, decide.’  Never forget criticism, or the act of being critical originates from personal perception, a choice to be judgmental and critical.  The intent is to pass judgment upon something, someone, or someplace with the intent to cause personal harm or sway the opinions of others.

Constructive

Being constructive is “serving a useful purpose, or tending to build up.”  As noted above, criticism cannot be constructive because the adjective “constructive” is the polar opposite of criticism, which tends to tear down, demean, and depress.  Yet, when business leaders begin to write annual reviews, they are told to constructively criticize their employees, to sandwich criticism between praise to make the criticism less painful, and to construct comments in a manner that showcases strengths while not dwelling on the criticism.  Why; because this is the “scientifically approved” method for leadership, provide “constructive criticism.”  Except, criticism is a personal opinion and can never construct anything!

Why are we discussing criticism?Why

09 June 2021, in my company email box, I received an email, considered a “Thought of the Day,” from no less an auspicious source as the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Department (DEI).  If anyone knew the damage of tyrannical language, I would think those in DEI would have a clue.  Yet, by their email, it is clear that DEI continues to drink the Kool-Aid and act the tyrant where language is concerned.  The email attempts to define destructive criticism and constructive criticism and then provides steps for distinguishing between the two forms of criticism.  Completely forgetting that criticism can never be constructive and will always be destructive.  From the email, we find these two fallacious concepts:

      • Destructive criticism: is undermining and can cause harm. There is no upside or way to positively spin what is said/written because the critic does not have your best interest at heart. It is destructive criticism that gives people fear of criticism in general.
      • Constructive criticism: is designed to be helpful and is based on valid facts/observations. It’s meant to help you grow and become stronger. It’s not always positive, but it can help you to see things in a new light. The critic almost always gives it based on their experience and genuinely wants to help out.Anton Ego 4

Using the definitions provided, can you see the tyranny?  Are the problems with plasticizing criticism behind the adjective “constructive” evident?  Do you understand the term plastic language and how plasticizing a word can destroy a person? Finally, ask yourself, does the professional critic write to “help the subject” of the criticism out, or do they criticize for another purpose entirely?

undefined1960, Doris Day’s movie, “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,” has a character who moves from being a professor of acting at a college to being a theater critic.  The movie is a comedy and delightfully shows the problems with criticism.  Better, the film underscores how criticizing never leads to constructing a person, a reputation, or an industry.  A more recent example of the problems with criticism can be found in the Disney/Pixar animated movie “Ratatouille.”  Anton Ego is the critic of restaurants, and his name strikes fear and dread into the hearts of the cooks and chefs in a restaurant.  Anton Ego is a tyrant who employs criticism as a tool for his own ends.  The final criticism of Chef Gusteau’s Restaurant near the end of the movie is a stunning example of how criticism can never be constructive!

Bait & SwitchFrom the DEI email, we find something very interesting in the Constructive vs. Destructive questions; the lack of the term “criticism” in the constructive criticism questions. Instead, criticism has been subtly changed to “feedback” in every place the term criticism should reside. So, for example, the first item under constructive is stated, “Feedback and advice from others are essential for growth and success.  Look at criticism as a learning opportunity.”  Better still, the third item in the constructive list states, “Detach yourself from criticism.”

Your ability to understand and refuse to play word games promotes operational trust in an organization, brings stability to teams, and establishes you as a person willing to learn.  Learning thwarts tyranny, and the tyrant has to give ground.  Never lose the moral high ground!

Knowledge Check!Fighting tyrannical modular language, or the plastic word games people play to control an audience, I suggest the following:

        1. Question terms used—demand logical answers.
        2. Know words and definitions; if unsure, ask SIRI, look the terms up in multiple dictionaries, but don’t rely upon one source for an explanation.
        3. When in doubt, practice #2, then #1 until you are less confused. I have found those working to plasticize words cannot stand scrutiny.
        4. Sunshine disinfectant works when tyranny is found; put the tyrant in the sunshine and watch them emulate a vampire in the sunshine!

Freedom requires a willing mind and a courageous heart; you are never alone when you take a stand against tyranny. So stand and watch the tyranny begin to fall like a rock slide.  Be the tiny rock that starts something big!

Reference

Poerksen, U. (2010). Plastic words: The tyranny of a modular language. Penn State Press.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: Enthusiasm and Confidence – The Power Tools to Conquer

Laughing OwlIn a job interview, the interviewer asked me for my two greatest strengths and why.  The following article represents both my answer and my desire to see others understand.  The interviewer thought I was insane by the look of disgust on their face; needless to say I was not hired.  When I asked why; the answer amazed me.  My strengths were too strong for their culture.  Let that sink in for a moment; a confident and enthusiastic person was not a good fit for their organization.  Maybe, just maybe, free societies should be taking a new look at these age-old tools for changing the world.

What is Enthusiasm?

Henry Chester is quoted as saying, “Enthusiasm is the greatest asset in the world. It beats money and power and influence. It is no more or less than faith in action.”  As a point of fact, this is the first quote I took time and a ton of energy to memorize.  Enthusiasm represents intense interest, eagerness, enjoyment, and a desire for approval beyond the simple desire of peer acceptance.  Enthusiasm also arouses feelings and originates via Latin from enthusiasmus, meaning inspiration and frenzy.  From the Greek, we learn the etiology of Enthusiasm stems from “enthousiazein ‘be inspired or possessed by a god’ (based on theos ‘god’)”  The etiology of Enthusiasm makes Henry Chester’s point more perfectly when a person considers the power and origination of faith and placing faith upon a power greater than oneself.

Literary FiendConsider those people you have found possessing large amounts of Enthusiasm; can you feel their intensity, frenzy, and eager interest?  I have had this pleasure multiple times, in various locations across the world.  My first experience was with a S. Korean business person riding the subway who was so excited to help and interested that I parted company with a feeling of desiring to be better as a person.  From that day in 1995 to today, I have strived to capture the same level of Enthusiasm as this business person in gratitude for his kindness and example of Enthusiasm.

What are you enthusiastic about?

Recently I was hired to be a data analyst for warehouses, and I sit as an advisor to the warehouse operations team to use data analysis to improve decision-making.  I cannot describe in words how enthusiastic I am every day to wake up and learn something new about data analysis, the tools of database data mining, and keeping my boots dirty and hands greasy in operations.  Ever since I got injured in the US Navy, I have tried to be what I knew, and the journey to this position has been great and dreadful, but each experience has improved how I think, and teach, to improve business operations.  I finally feel I can positively contribute as a handicapped person to the world with this position, and this feeling is incredible!Leadership Cartoon

What is Confidence?

In an effort to not confuse this topic, I have copied the definition of confidence from an earlier writing.  Confidence is a unique term, and Webster spends an inordinate amount of time trying to capture the power of, and reality is confidence.  Confidence is “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities; firm trust, a specific feeling  regarding the truth of something, a feeling or belief upon the reliance of someone or something.”  The key to confidence is your own self-assurance.  For example, you are assured through past transactions that your employer is not kiting paychecks.  Your confidence in receiving a salary drives you to be motivated and return to work each day.  When that trust is broken, you will leave and find new employment.  Hence, people do not work for companies, but for managers and leaders, they like.

ToolsConfidence is a reality when many people all trust the same thing, which creates societies, social standards, and governments.  Confidence in the government is expressed using the government’s monetary system to trade for products and services you would not have if you had less confidence in the government system.  Firm trust in the “value of the US Dollar (insert your own currency here)” leads to gains and losses in economic values.  Consider the events of the Christmas Holiday, which is fast approaching.  The individual expresses confidence, faith, and hope in holiday shopping.  The government uses the data of the volume of trades of confidence as a measuring stick in how well they are doing in government to improve a person’s return on investment.  Shopkeepers, stores, and others selling products and services represent a two-way street of faith, hope, and confidence as they trade with customers and with other suppliers, government, and stakeholders in conducting business.

Confidence is never an unconscious decision!  One cannot have firm trust, faith, or hope, in something without being consciously aware and possessing experience and knowledge in that someone or something.  Hence, confidence is the conscious use of trust as a destination in the journey of hope, launched by faith.Grit is a Marathon

What are you confident about?

In the movie “Sound of Music,” Maria sings one of my all-time favorite songs as she leaves the nunnery and takes a bus to her new  role as a nanny, “I Have Confidence.”  I can honestly say, as she does, “I have confidence in me.”  I have talents, skills, knowledge, and experience worth value to me, and that is all I need!  It did not matter to me that my Enthusiasm and confidence were too great for the interviewer’s culture and business; I interviewed my best and allowed the chips to fall where they may.  What are you confident about?  Who are you confident in?  Why do you invest your confidence in those answers?  When do you feel the most confident, and would you like to feel more confident?

Of all the questions asked, the “Why” and the When” questions are some I would love to discuss individually as you make your improvement plans.  Since this is not entirely possible, I offer the following advice from LaRae Quy, an FBI Agent.  The points are hers; the comments are mine.Non Sequitur - Decisions

  1. Take Risks!
    1. In my youth, I climbed trees, lots and lots of trees. In Maine, we had a patch of pine trees growing so close together, the trees had woven a mat out of their uppermost branches, and you could walk on this mat of branches.  Huge risk, great fun!
    2. As a soldier, I was freaked out by how close the Warthog could provide fire support. When the ‘Hog came through, being on the ground was the most intense feeling I have ever experienced.  Huge risk, lots of fun.
    3. As an operations manager, I took an ill-considered risk. I fired the floor supervisor as they refused to train anyone else in doing the jobs they were hired for as a means of job security.  The risk paid off; the remaining team members stepped up to the plate and learned.
    4. Risk requires action; act swiftly, even if it means minor course corrections along the way.
    5. Action includes failure; stop fearing failure! When we understand failure, we know ourselves just a little better and act more smartly!
    6. When in doubt, activate step 5!Bound & Gagged - Near Death
  2. Ask for feedback!
    1. Do you prefer to receive feedback from friends, family, or foes? Some of all, all or none, or something or someone else?
    2. Do you trust those providing feedback sufficiently to act?
    3. Can you tell the difference between feedback and criticism? They are not the same, and in accepting feedback, you need to be able to give feedback.  Hence ask, but never forget to provide feedback.
    4. Never give criticism, even if you think the criticism is “constructive.” There is never, ever, anything “constructive” about criticism!Frank & Ernest - Life Lesson
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice
    1. Missoula Montana, I presume he is retired now, Veteran Employment Specialist, Charlie Brown, genuine person, real name, had a favorite axiom for helping veterans search for work and hang in their job search, “Keep throwing spaghetti at the wall until something sticks!”  Which is all well and good, but to get spaghetti to stick to a wall, you must first cook and drain the spaghetti.  Thus, practice requires preparation.  In case anyone is interested, yes; I have thrown spaghetti against a wall.
    2. Rule of 6-P’s, “Proper Prior Planning, Promotes, Promising, Practice,” is my saying, and I know it works. Practice is a prerequisite to promising performances, but you must prepare properly.  Yes, as a dual-service veteran, I know the other axioms for the Rule of 6-P’s.
    3. See Suggestion 5! Wash, rinse, and repeat!Garfield - Good Explanation Needed
  4. Link up!
    1. Network.
    2. Make acquaintances.
    3. Get to know people!Non Sequitur - This explains so much
  5. Grit Up!
    1. I cannot stress this enough; confidence and Enthusiasm require grit! Lots and lots of grit!
    2. Believe this statement: “Merentur Melius Quam Tu tibi semper sit.” From Latin, meaning, “You will always be better than you deserve.”Grit - Defined
    3. What is “Grit,” you might ask? Grit is a positive, cognitive trait based on an individual’s perseverance of effort combined with the passion for a specific long-term goal or end state.  At least, that is what the academics call grit.  Of all the people America remembers who have had a positive and long-lasting influence upon American culture, John Wayne is near the top.  If anyone embodies grit, John Wayne is quoted thusly, “True grit is making a decision and standing by it, doing what must be doneNo moral man can have peace of mind if he leaves undone what he knows they should have done.”  In understanding grit, I have oft called upon T. S. Eliot, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.