Critical Pleasures


There we were munching at our separate pies. Mine was Salmon with Dill and hers was Chicken with herbs. As is our custom, sometime during the course we swapped plates so we could both experience different flavours. There was a mumbling noise from the head beside me. I turned to look at her, and with her mouth now free of encumbrance she repeated, “It needs more salt”. I hadn’t noticed any problem with the salt level, but that’s the pleasure of us both eating the same dish. Discussing the different responses.

Admirably the Pie seemed unmoved by the criticism and submitted to its fate with dignified stoicism . People are not quite the same when we suggest some slight adjustment might move them nearer perfection. Bye and large any criticism should be laced with large helpings of affection and goodwill to make it palatable, otherwise it gets the bristling, “look whose talking” approach which leads to stalemate

Some time ago I introduced a newish friend of mine to some old friends. conversation was as skirting as normal, with both expressing standard levels of interest in the other’s careers, hobbies etc.. “This is going to be a bit tough” I thought, but then someone said that I looked a bit smarter than normal. “He’s always so scruffy” said oldest friend”. “Have you seen his blue sweater with the frayed sleeve” chipped in new friend, and his shoes !” Suddenly they were off exploring the jungle of my limitations together and bonding over shared insights into my dress sense. I began to feel a bit like that Salmon Pie and decided I would leave them to it and go and buy a round of drinks. By the time I had returned they were both laughing and bonding with each other with pleasing speed. We often admire qualities in our friends but it’s their frailties that bring out the affection.

Many of us strive to improve or perfect ourselves.  However I can pretty much say I have never knowingly been improved by any criticism I have received,and it must be said I have received a fairly generous helping of it. More often its subliminal role is to improve the morale of the critic rather than help the subject. No problem with that: always willing to give a helping hand. In the main, although quite possibly more beneficial, encouragement is a rarer beast. Given over a period of time it can make a real difference to its subject. Wouldn’t it be nice if we gave each other more.

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About Peter Wells aka Countingducks

Trying to remember what my future is
This entry was posted in community, Life, life2, Relationships, skils and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Critical Pleasures

  1. Caroline says:

    Love your take on this and you’re so right!!

    Criticism rarely works! And encouragement works for me!! As I’ve discovered. Encouragement is the key!

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  2. You’ve caught this aspect of human behaviour perfectly.It’s so strange how we can bond with acquaintances by mulling over a mutual friend’s characteristics. I’m sure psychologists have grappled with this in long and complex papers – but I much prefer your post: from pies to people with a dash of salt for flavour!

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  3. Jillsy Girl says:

    Less is more when it comes to salt. 😉

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  4. Barbara says:

    I find it very snarky to criticize like your friends did. It’s like gossiping about you in front of you. I know gossip is hard to resist but it truly serves no purpose but to make the criticizer feel superior.

    I agree with you Peter, not the way to get positive results, for sure.
    b

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  5. nelle says:

    >>More often its subliminal role is to improve the morale of the critic rather than help the subject.<<

    Indeed! Although in fairness, not all would fall in this category. I appreciate feedback on my writing, what works and what doesn't, what one likes and dislikes, sort of a test run for me.

    Funny thing is…we know who our harshest judge is, and in my case, and in the past, my worst nemesis. Ahh, the vagaries and joy of personhood.

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  6. backonmyown says:

    Love this post. I’ve met people who could use a little more salt. Happy to say you’re not one of them.

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  7. Shonnie says:

    I loved the way you expressed your feelings about this subject. I find it truly amazing, and completely to your credit, that I could so love a post of yours that I come from the opposite side on the subject of criticism.

    Don’t misunderstand, I don’t like to be criticized all the time or anything strange like that–who could get into that? I have spent an enormous amount of time working to help develop young people and adults learn to speak (publicly) and communicate well. In this situation particular situation the indiviual is placed in the position of being sliced, diced, and cubed (constantly) to become better at their chosen craft. I see criticism as a positive thing.

    I am sure we can agree that NO one wants criticism from someone who’s interest is in using you for sport. Those people, well I don’t view them quite as kindly as you did. 😀

    I wanted to thank you for sharing your view on this with us, because it will play in the back of my mind the next time I share advice or critical analysis with anyone. I will remind myself of your thoughts on this and reconsider how or if I want to share my thoughts. 😀

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    • Actually I agree with a lot of what you say Shonnie. It often depends on the motive of the critisiser. If you are developing someone by breaking them down to build them up that is a lsightly different thing. However critisism is made withour any real development agenda, and that possibly is not as beneficial

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      • Shonnie says:

        Awe, thanks Ducky, glad we agree–mostly. That makes me smile. 🙂

        I don’t feel that criticism not based in love of the one being criticized it just plain mean. I don’t think one should pick on someone about a flaw that they don’t actually adore in the person–or find as an interesting quirk that makes that person unique and special–ANYTHING else is just mean, and therefore unnecessary.

        I am sure you have been around when people pick and say just kidding–that makes me nuts. We all know they are not “really” kidding. Anyway — I preach on and on. Love your posts man! 😀

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      • Shonnie says:

        Criticism that is not based in love, love of the one … is how it should read.

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  8. Big Al says:

    I’m thinking maybe my response to them would be something like….”Well, I can buy new clothes but you’ll still be ugly. Just kidding,

    Your comment that it is more intended to build up themselves is right. It’s a human condition. We accept it. If we didn’t, there would be no friends. C’est la vie!

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  9. —All of my friends encourage me… Or they would be out on their asses!
    My girlfriend, Tia, has this saying she often exclaims to her students: ” Are you trying to hurt them or help them?”
    I love that! Simple, but powerful. x

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  10. Kirri White says:

    Im like many in that I bloom with encouragement and shrivel just a little under criticism…..
    I have nothing to add other than…your writing has evoked some serious hunger pangs here 🙂

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  11. I agree with Caroline, you always have an interesting take on different discussions you share with us. It’s refreshing and wonderful to read.

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  12. eof737 says:

    Yes, compliments are balm to the soul and keep our friendship engines running… Why have critical friends when the world is full of critics…? That would be a waste of time really. But I do understand that our friends speak honestly at times to help us straighten up… Lovely post. 🙂

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  13. Encouragement is key to getting things done and staying motivated. However, my friends and I get good chuckles over some of our goofy adventures. But we would never criticize just laugh 🙂

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  14. Lady E says:

    You’re right, absolutely, and it makes me smile to think back about how freely you give out encouragement and support. I believe most of us strive on a balance between competitiveness, trying to do outdo themselves, in which case gentle criticism may help, and the need for re-inforcement and recognition which compliments and encouragement will fulfill.

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