Expressing what you Think: Constructive Criticism and Destructive Opinions
Expressing an opinion on any matter is a way, one of the many ways, to expose oneself to the world and, for that reason, I think it's worth paying a bit of attention to the way we express what we think. That is especially true when we say out loud that we disagree with something. Opinions that go against the grain are healthy most of the times, for most adults and most topics, but they require respect and consideration to others' opinions. Tolerance, I think it's called.
I don't fully subscribe to the old adage "If you don't have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all." I would, if all that ever came out of someone's mouth was froth, fire and brimstone –in other words, intolerant people may as well shut their mouthtraps as far as I'm concerned, but I believe constructive criticism is worth voicing, the trick is to say nicely (or politely, if you will) something that's not so nice nor easy to say.
I think the way to achieve this is by aiming at improving the perceived deficiency that's bothering you, that is, don't just burst forth with the "issue", instead think about how you can contribute to improve it. This would be the art of saying exactly what you think without creating rejection, or an enemy, in the process. It's all about respect and also tolerance, but I hear it's all the rage to call it "assertiveness" nowadays!
There are two basic rules to pass on constructive criticism: Separate the "issue" from the person, and keep the person emotionally attached. More often than not, criticism ceases to be constructive because instead of focusing on the issue we focus on the person –mostly by generalizing, because we don't have the guts to address the thing that really bothers us. Take a look at this article 4 Ways to Be Assertive Without Being Rude.
At the other end of constructive criticism is plain old criticism or, ultimately, antagonism. I have some peeves about that and I can get into pretty heated debates about them, too. I suppose we all have our peeves about disrespectful and thoughtless commentary, but here's my top list of annoying habits when it comes to expressing opposing opinions.
Ironically, after having unequivocally defended respect and tolerance when it comes to speaking one's mind, I'm going to be quite the uncivilized, intolerant savage to demean certain ways of formulating opinions. So call me a cynic.
How To Express an Opinion and Piss Me Off in the Process
Here it comes...
1. The NO sayers. It’s easier to judge than to think.
This would be people that never voice an opinion unless it's in opposition to someone else's. Likely, that's because they never had a single opinion ... having one would require thinking...
It annoys me, big time, when someone asks me my opinion on any subject, and I answer in no uncertain terms, like I mean it (oy vey, would that be because I actually mean it?), and just after I'm done they ask me if I'm sure of what I said. I wonder if it looks like I spoke the first thing that sprang to mind. I wonder if it looks like I don’t know what I'm talking about. Never mind what I wonder... In general, I have no problem telling anyone my opinion, but I do have a problem with people that don’t have their own formed but don’t think twice about questioning others’.
2 The PICK-APARTS. It’s easier to destruct than to construct.
These are plain smartasses, know-it-all-look-alikes that always seem on the lookout for a flaw in the argument. They aren't interested in the argument, but in finding flaws within.
If someone takes the time to express what they think about something, and they back it up with reasoning (their own, regardless of how true or logic it sounds to the rest of us!), I find it maddening when someone goes and picks the one little, tiny thread of the whole dissertation that seems to part with the general concept, and then proceeds to tear the whole opinion to shreds.
It makes me think these people are actually looking for something, anything, to blurt what they think is The Truth. First of all, why didn't they say so in the first place? And second, do they really think what they say they think, or do they wait until someone with a bit more guts expresses an opinion to help them frame theirs?
Which drives me nicely to my third peeve.
3. The COMMON PLACERS. There's safety in numbers. Being original takes guts.
Here's people that resort to common places to pull apart an argument, never using an original though of their own. I'm not sure they even believe in what they are saying.
The fact that one million people have said something before doesn't make it The Truth. Granted, it's probably valid in some way, because it's difficult that so many people are wrong at the same time, though I could probably find a few examples of it, but anyway, there seem to be individuals that will resort to these used and reused and abused common places because they seem to find reassurance in numbers. Going with the flow is easier than going against it and, if bad comes to worst, they probably think that having expressed a thought that 1 million others also backed up will make them less prone to comebacks or repercussions.
4. ANGST IS KING. Or is that queen? The conspiracy theory!
Whatever happened to them fellows that they think the world at large is against them? Whatever makes them think the world cares one way or another?!
I think we all know people that will only, or mostly, express opinions to complain. Pretty much everything they rant (whoops, sorry) opine about is a problem, a mistake, an offense, some wrongdoing of someone or something against them.
Here's a news flash: The world doesn't revolve around you, much less is out there to get you. And guess what? The world doesn't care much one way or the other what you think, if you're sad or happy, if you pay taxes or not. Get real, and stop thinking for a minute that everything that happens in the universe happens to make your life miserable. Maybe the day you voice something other than a protest, the world will repay you in kind and look a bit rosier, a bit warmer. If you only talk trash, well, what else do you expect to get but a lotta trash in return?
Ahem.... Methinks I have been rather destructive, haven't I? Yeah, yeah, like I said, call me a cynic.
© 2008 Elena.