Friday, June 14, 2013

I'm Allergic to Correction

Actually, I'm not allergic to correction. Grass, cats, dust mites, yes -- but I actually assume everything I do is wrong, so correction doesn't surprise me.

We have a natural defense mechanism whenever someone corrects us, even if they're in the right. While I like to know if I have spinach on my teeth or my zipper is down, my immediate response is defensive. I have quickly reprogram my knee jerk reaction to one of gratitude, after all, I don't want to walk around all day with a verdant smile. When there's class difference (employee to boss, student to teacher, etc...) it makes the correction even more awkward for both parties. People need to remember that the

This is even worse is more subtle, personal areas. How do you tell the diabetic you love that they're killing themselves? You do it once, get snapped at, and realize nothing you say will make a difference. I was once at my hair salon and got a gag-inducing whiff of one of the other stylists. I mentioned it to my hairdresser and she said that it was driving away customers, but no one knew how to tell the woman without hurting her feelings.

It's all about communication and the understanding the correction is not directed to hurt, but to help. Correction can be annoying, but, if it is well meant, it shouldn't be treated as an attack. It was probably really hard for the person to tell you that your behavior is damaging your relationships. They wouldn't tell you if it wasn't true, at least to them; chances are that whatever they're saying directly affects them, so give it credibility. If your friends always smiled and nodded while secretly being annoyed when you brought them your trash and called them gifts or tried to redecorate their house, that would end up as a very one sided friendship. I like to think that my husband's input, while not always appreciated, keeps my crazy in check. Active relationships help keep people accountable.

This is equally true in literary critique. I once spent several hours over many days on a difficult piece, unsure how to say that it had no central idea, no clear character, and was written more for the writer than the reader. But, since I was asked to give honest feedback, I did. Part of that included deleting the first seventeen pages -- hey, I was being honest. I gave reasons for all my edits, I made sure to note the positives along with giving suggestions to fix the problems. I sent it, my heart in my throat, afraid I was going to ruin a friendship and.... nothing. Not even acknowledgement that they received it. I've received negative critiques that I didn't always agree with, but at least I said thank you (and usually, after I've had a day or so to fume about implied disrespect to my baby, I'm able to think about what was said more objectively and find it helpful).

Critique is a gift. Honest communication about problems is an attempt to keep a relationship healthy. Don't take either as an attack.


Stacy McKitrick said...

I've sort of been guilty of not replying (eek!). Not because I didn't appreciate the work, but because I put it off to the side to deal with later (like you, I like the comments to sit and marinate) and worked on another project. It had completely left my mind that I failed to thank my critiquer, and she thought she'd angered me. I finally replied when I had a question about a comment she made and she was so relieved I wasn't mad (after apologizing profusely, I made sure to tell her I ALWAYS appreciated her help). Yep, I felt about 1 inch tall and I try not to do it again.

So...maybe that's what happened with your friend. Don't know for sure, but hey, it's possible.

Susan Kane said...

No one takes criticism well, unfounded or not. You'll hear back, eventually.

I wonder whatever happened to the stinky hair stylist?

Sylvia Ney said...

So true, yet so hard to do!

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