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Don’t Watch That Tone! – Under A Nasty Surface There Might Be Valuable Feedback


“Severe truth is expressed with some bitterness.” — Henry David Thoreau

It’s always great to get praised for your work, isn’t it? Getting positive feedback when you do something right just feels good.

Recently I got praise for an answer to a question. A question I felt deserved an article. It was an article about how to get sponsored which you can read here.

The praise made me feel proud and elated, but one thing bothered me a little.

My answer was being compared to other answers that weren’t deemed as “good” or “constructive”. As I looked at them I could see that while they were ironic and nasty at times, they still held some value.

Sure, they didn’t exactly build up the person asking the question, nor did they really offer any specific or truly constructive advice.

What they did do was give honest feedback.

Woman Scolding Child

Don’t watch your tone with me, Mister!

I realized that what made me uncomfortable was that people were basically saying: “That’s right! You show those snarky bastards!”

Yet, the only real difference besides me giving some concrete examples was the tone.

Their answers were in essence saying the same thing that I was.

This got me thinking, what if instead of only looking at the “tone” of an answer or feedback we instead looked at it as raw information or data.

To get the proper context it might be good for you to know that the person asking the question wanted to get sponsorship for a gaming laptop from a video game company he likes.

Let’s look at an excerpt from another answer:

“Why would they? I mean seriously. Their business is to sell video games, not give away laptops to people who beg for them. What’s in it for them?”

Now, some might find this answer to have a negative tone to it.

Even if it does, what does it matter? There are some valuable things to think about here.

“Why would they?” is a perfectly valid question. Why would someone sponsor you? Maybe to get more exposure for their work?

“Their business is to sell video games”. Ah, a clue! This is what they want to do. Perhaps they would sponsor you if you could help sell more of their games?

“What’s in it for them?” is a modification to the first question, but again makes as think about how we could be of service to them so that there’s exchange going on.

See, if we just strip away the “tone” we can still gain some valuable feedback.

Now, “You suck!” doesn’t exactly specify what it is that needs improving, just that what you did wasn’t appreciated by that person.

Not all feedback will have possibility to gain useful information.

Perhaps we can learn to separate how the criticism is delivered, or how it makes us feel, and just look at what’s actually being said.

I don’t mean that we should let people talk to us in any manner they please. We have a right to tell people that they’re acting like assholes. However, we can still get something out of it if we just look more closely.

Extract what’s useful and discard the rest.

Think back to a time when someone was being mean with their criticism. What lessons, if any, would you be able to learn by looking at it through this new lens?


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