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: Perspective – Another Powerful Tool

Garfield - Good Explanation NeededI am a foodie!  I love talking about food, creating recipes for food, eating food, redesigning recipes to make food better, and have spent a lot of time enjoying gustatory experimentation!  I can discuss the finer points of chocolate and carob, ginger, spices (including the history of spices) until people are drooling and begging me to stop.  I have no mouth-brain filter where food is concerned.  I like it hot or cold, and lots of it!  Thus it is no wonder I am a fan of Anton Ego from Disney/Pixar “Ratatouille.”  Anton Ego and I are slightly different; if he does not love food, he doesn’t swallow.  Me, I will try anything and eat to know more as a learning experience; perspective.

Anton Ego has a fabulous line:

“… Do you know what I’m craving?  A little perspective.  That’s it.  I’d like some perspective.”

One of the most pleasurable experiences I have is shopping at Trader Joe’s.  This is especially true when I get a fellow customer who wants to discuss food, recipes and is looking for a gustatory experience.  There have been times I have been led to a product by a fellow customer exclaiming how wonderful that is in this recipe, that recipe, or straight out of the package.  Trader Joe’s used to carry these pretzel rolls that went so good with BBQ pulled pork, pulled chicken, or brats.  You would have thought you had died and gone to food heaven!

Trader Joe'sTrader Joe’s has previously had some great frozen desserts.  For example, ginger and lemon ice cream from Italy, a salted caramel gelato that was to die for, and several other unique concoctions that went so well with other products you would have thought they would still be carried today; except they are not sold anymore.  Perspective in food makes being a foodie my hobby of interest.

Anton EgoPerspective is also a key element in political choices, book selections, car buying, and a host of other human endeavors.  Perspective is not simply an opinion, it is a way of seeing the world, and perspective is a choice that comes with natural consequences.  Over time, the perspective choice decision cycle determines a person’s destiny, friends, desires, foods, clothing, companions, and so much more.  How do we know this is true; look to the food choices and consequences involved in the perspective choice decision-making cycle.

Consider the following example.  As a kid, my mother was a deal hunter, and one day in March, she came home from shopping with a screaming good deal on fish.  Tuna fish, to be precise, in #10 sized cans, designed for restaurants, and she had purchased multiple cases of Tuna Fish.  From March through the end of July, we kids ate tuna fish in every possible recipe as dinner.  At this time, My father returned from a National Guard 2-week event that took his unit to Puerto Rico, where some R&R saw them deep-sea fishing.  Knowing that many of the other wives would kill their husbands for bringing back a HUGE sports fish, tuna, my dad was offered the “extra” fish caught.  Two days before Thanksgiving, we finally finished all the fish!  The dog and cats would not touch fish, raccoons in our neighborhood would not touch the fish.  As a point of fact, scavengers of all types and sizes refused our yard and garbage due to the fish.  Thus, I do NOT eat anything with fish, even to this day, almost 40-years after this incident.Anton Ego 3

Perspective and choices, with natural consequences, leaves me in a NO Fish Zone!  I will eat protein from every other source, but if it’s fish, it doesn’t matter how it was cooked; you can keep it!  US Navy, Surf n’ Turf dinner night, I would turf, and the surf could go down the drain without any problem, except the smell of the surf prepared was enough to make me gag and refuse most food that night!  Boy, was this a funny joke in the US Navy, a sailor who would not eat fish.  Made only funnier when I refused to swim in the ocean.  On land, I am the top of the food chain; in the ocean, I AM the food chain!  Guess who doesn’t swim in the ocean!

Perspective and choices with natural consequences.  It has been pointed out that regardless of the candidate offered, 40% of the population on both sides of the aisle will continue to vote for the ticket; this is true for democrats and republicans.  Leaving a 20% middle ground where the elections are won and lost, provided you have honest people counting the ballots, and skullduggery have not biased the counting machines.  I am proud to be part of the 20%; I have been an independent voter since I lost a sixth-grade debate over Mike Dukakis.

Anton Ego 4A lesson I learned from that debate was the value of perception and choices, but I didn’t fully appreciate that lesson until I was much older.  Those natural consequences of perception and choice in decision-making remain a powerful tool, only if we choose to allow that perspective to change.  Religion and politics are two topics we did not discuss as children; yet, those two topics are the topics my brothers and sister struggle with the most.  Worse, the topics continue to remain a taboo subject even though religion hopping and political leanings are issues that are infecting the entire world right now.

A person’s perception and choices over religion and politics are the two topics that we all need more openness in discussing; however, emotions, lawyers, and snowflakes make an honest discussion all but impossible to have.  I have been on social media when atheists post something; if a non-atheists submits information, the tone automatically changes, accusations and aspersions are cast, and all hope of an open discussion is ruined.  I have seen the same with abortion, economics, and so many other topics.  The politics and the religion of those participating, both of which are a choice in the perceptive/choice decision-making cycle, end the honest discussion, and the tone and environment turn off people looking to discuss, worse too often, those attacking become trolls and attack outside the discussion

Anton Ego 2Part of living in a Republic is the need to form opinions based upon our individual knowledge, experience, and perspective choice decisions.  Living in a Republic is messy; this is a good thing!  The more chaotic, the better because it means freedom is alive and kicking.  When a Republic becomes less messy, people lose their rights to speech, privacy, liberty, and freedom.  Do you understand this connection and relationship?  Your perspective builds your opinions and biases.  Your opinions and biases make a Republic messy, and this is a good thing.  Please, engage and form perspectives, originate an opinion, and make yourself heard!

© 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.