Tuesday’s post about constructive criticism (Constructive Criticism Gone Awry (As a Receiver)), especially my “unappreciative” reception, made me think about business and sales. In many ways, giving and receiving constructive criticism is similar to selling.
  • The lack of understanding (and lack of trying to understand) lost me as a receiver.The man offering the criticism came in with a solution based off a few brief observations. He did not realize that the gym is a very important place for me – my “safe haven”. As such, speaking at the gym, to me, is unwanted.
  • The validity of the man’s constructive criticism was derailed early from a misunderstood position. Again, without understanding what was happening, the man stated I was being rude by not facing another man – the chiropractor. He did not observe how I was pointing and craning my neck in various positions while talking to a knownchiropractor. How quickly, then, I dismissed his observation.
  • The lack of empathy creates friction and defensiveness. I want to hammer home this point – for successful criticism, product, or service [sale], empathy is imperative. Being a 3rd party observer, the perspective can be objective. However, coming in with a harsh hypothesis can create unwarranted tension – hypotheses such as being rude, the business prospect’s process is broken, etc. Influence without empathy falls on deaf ears.

As a receiver of constructive criticism and a prospect for many products and services, I get it. I want to be the best version of myself. For my company, I want us to excel. That means I am open for feedback and useful products or services. Approach tactfully and with empathy.

Prefacing today’s post saying I appreciate and even look forward to constructive criticism. Deep-rooted in me is a competitive strive to be the best version of myself, so constructive criticism is welcome.
Recently, an acquaintance offered me constructive criticism that I did not, however, appreciate. Summarizing the incident:

Man walks up to me in the gym while I’m working out with my buddy, and asks, “Daryl, can I offer you some constructive criticism?” 

Me: “Sure.” 

Man: “Well, I’ve been noticing lately when you’re talking to people, you’re not turned facing them. You’re facing another way, which can be rude. It doesn’t show that you’re paying attention to them.” 

Me: “Oh, okay.” 

Man: “Daryl, I like talking to you. I know we’re in here working out, but lately, I’ve just noticed you doing this, and I know you don’t mean it. However, it comes across as you not caring.” 

Me: “Hmm, sorry to hear that. Were you just noticing me talking to [Man Y] of there?”

Man: “Yes.” 

Me: “Oh, well, you know, [Man Y] is a chiropractor. I was talking to him and showing him my neck. You see, I’ve had a hurt neck the last several weeks, so I was showing him where I was having pain from the front and giving him the side perspective when it hurts.” 

Man: “Oh, yes, he’s a chiropractor, isn’t he?” 

Me: “Yeah… and yes, I’ve realized I’m not facing people so much these days. Honestly, I also made a conscious effort to not talk to people in the gym the last month. Ever since I hurt my neck, I’ve just wanted to concentrate on my rehab and recovery.” 

Man: “Oh, yeah, the neck is not a good place to be hurt.” 

Etc. etc.

I reflected on this encounter a lot after this – I was bothered. I realized the following:
  • I value relationships hugely, so when someone tells me I am being rude, that’s a bigdeal. I want people to value and enjoy interactions with me, not walk away feeling I thought less of them.
  • As much as I want constructive criticism, it must come from a place of empathy. The man might not have realized my neck injury over the last weeks, but surely, he would have noticed me articulating my neck with a known chiropractor. Meanwhile, knowing how important the gym was to me and my normal “do not talk to me, I’m focused” attitude was heightened. A probing question would have put us both on equal footing with a bit of empathy for what was going on.
  • Though there are clues that would indicate my focus and temperament, I do what I feel is needed that I best for me (i.e. earbuds in, focused look, on a timer). However, all of my actions can be interpreted differently by others. I have to be cognizant and comfortable with how I act, why I act, and what others may perceive.

Constructive criticism is great, but it can be tough deliver effectively. I completely agree with the man on how facing people while talking is respectful; while not doing so is rude. I also agree that I probably have done this quite a bit recently. However, I also felt annoyed and misunderstood due to what I knew I wanted – to heal, to recover, and to still challenge myself physically.

Days after this reflection, I can’t say I have changed much in how I approach my workouts. I’m still intensely focused. If someone walks up to me, I will face them. Though, if my watch beeps telling me my rest period is up, I will need to speak up and let the other person know I need to keep going. It’s the truth, and I hope s/he will understand.
Also, it’s great when I have people around me who will give me constructive criticism. It shows I have people around me who care and want me to be my best self, too.