Giving Mad Props and Just a Little Critique

I get tired, y’all.

Tired of constant negativity, finding fault, and altogether tired of our culture’s obsession with focusing on what’s wrong.

These traits exist in me as much as the next person, and I am learning to be more patient and loving with myself on this subject.

But, I also believe in giving compliments, encouraging people, and focusing on ALL the things that are going well.  I think it is a powerful and effective way to build relationships and help ourselves grow.  And from what I can tell, this is not necessarily a popular way to be.

In fact, I’m going to go as far as to say that focusing on the “what’s right” of a situation, or seeing the most positive aspects of something or someone, is often perceived as naive, weak, or just plain dumb.  I’m okay with that because I’ve discovered that being ultra positive works better than being ultra critical.  For me, and obviously not everyone.  Remember, we all get to decide how to play the game of life.

Imagine This

A beautiful woman enters the room.  She is impeccably dressed.  Tall, with flowing black hair.  Her lipstick is the perfect shade of red, and her heels match her suit as if they were designed by the same person.

And then  – she starts to sing.

Her voice sounds gorgeous, and within a few notes it is obvious she not only loves her craft, but she is also highly trained and dedicated to beautiful singing.

After she finishes her piece, the other teachers in the room are invited to share their feedback, because (afterall) this is a workshop.  And what workshop wouldn’t be complete without some insight from the peanut gallery?  That’s why we do these things.

In this scenario, I see a woman who was more right than wrong.  She has incredible talent and passion for her art, and her skill level is near pro.

At the same time, she seems uncomfortable in her own skin.  She nervously wrings her hands, and fidgets a little bit.  She can’t smile or drop her shoulders into a natural, relaxed position because something on the inside isn’t at peace.

Several people offer compliments and affirmations of her singing.  She smiles politely and nods her head.  As if to say, “isn’t that sweet, thank you dears.”

Then, come the laundry list of “things she could have done better.”

The Typical Workshop

This is a typical situation, right?  Seminars, workshops, and clinics for singers – they can be geared toward offering feedback about what just went horribly wrong!  You get a side compliment here or there, but mostly a —->”let’s get down to brass tacks people, and make sure to remember every single, stinking thing that was W.R.O.N.G. about what you just did.  Cause you made a lot of mistakes, and we have 127 singers to judge today,” kind of vibe.

Here’s What I Notice

The above workshop is fairly typical.  Great singing, lots of discussion about things that went wrong, and a few passing compliments.

The singer in the above scenario often doesn’t seem interested in receiving the compliments, and may even say (out loud) “okay, now the real feedback,” as the critique starts to roll in.  I’ve actually heard people say that!

The singer often looks <re. freaking. lieved.> when people started talking about his or her  . . .  faults.  That’s what they came for, and that’s what they want.  A singer often wants to bypass the warm fuzzy feelings and get on with the fixing part.

It hit me hard recently: most singers aren’t looking for positive feedback, they wanted to know where they screw up.  First and foremost.  They want “the truth.”  But only the truth about what was wrong with the performance.

And I totally get it!  I was raised this way too.  I was systematically trained to see how wrong everything is.  I used to think that focusing on all the problems and faults was the way to fix them, and that if I screwed up I needed more criticism (not less) in order to “get it right.”

Whatever “it” happened to be.

Adding a Heaping Dose of Positive

I agree that facing our shortcomings is part of healthy living.  Being able to see where we need improvement and correcting ourselves in humility and love is very important for good mental health.  Honest self reflection?  Yes, let’s do that please.

But, and hear me out: if we don’t over balance the mean, hyper-critical little voice in our heads with big, heaping doses of self-love and self-respect, we limit ourselves.  What I mean is, we need to make the loving voice much, much louder than the critical voice in order to shine.  Not just live – shine.

I know, I know.  This is quite a crazy claim to a lot of people.  And I don’t expect anyone to believe it until they try it out for themselves.  But I wonder: what if we focused the majority of our attention on all the things that were going well and maybe just glanced at the things that need improvement?

What would happen then?  Would our heads explode from our swollen egos if we flip the formula and give each other mad props FIRST?  Then some loving and very, very simple critique second?

And What If . . .

What would happen if we could fully accept and honor the compliments that come our way?

Who would we be if we were genuinely kind and supportive of one another before critical?  Or even instead of critical?

What would life be like if we could see ourselves and others . . . how love sees us?

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  1. I love this and yet am not sure how I feel about it. I at least have a perception that millenials tend to have a problem with receiving too much encouragement, whereas my generation struggles with seeing the negative in ourselves. There’s something about this post that I agree with though. For me, I am too focused on what is wrong, and desperate for encouragement, but I also feel that I must have appropriate criticism to grow. I will have to give it more thought.

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