Criticism & Appreciation

The first chapter of Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People talks about criticism, something I often do after I consider a relationship a failure.  I’ve been taught that I need to not only receive constructive criticism, but also give back, and I also understand that such criticism may create resentment unless the choice is made to accept it, learn and grow from it or walk away angry, dissolving whatever friendship might’ve existed in the first place.

I totally disagree with his first chapter about criticism, especially considering it is a Leaders’ job to criticize and provide insight or feedback; so we’ve changed the word to Feedback; it’s the same thing and the art is it to approach it with a desire for other insight to grow from how others view you or an opportunity to win the person over with an intellectual argument proving they understand what is being said, felt, and heard.

I wish I could copy from the book to comment, but he says “remember, we are not dealing with creatures of logic, we are dealing with creatures of pride, bristling with prejudices, motivated by pride and vanity.”  I call it a guarded ego in fear of hearing a negative view or the truth about how one perceives another.  It takes a very strong friend to point out the flaws of another person without fear of hurting someone’s feelings and losing the relationship; it also takes a mature person to accept the words with an open mind and desire to see if it rings true within themselves and others.

Principle 1:  Don’t Criticize or Complain.
He takes a portion of a book called “Father Forgets” where the Dad spends the whole day criticizing the child without empathizing and feels guilty when he kneels at his bedside at night promising a new day where he would be a better dad, saying when his child hurt he would hurt, when he’d laugh, they’d both laugh, chum with you and suffer when he’d suffer.

He says its more important to figure out why they do what they do than to criticize them.  I’ve often approached people this way, standing back, not criticizing, wondering why they do what they do and then feeling bad for not stopping them and showing them the error of their wrongs, or a better way, as a good parent or friend should.  He says “it breeds sympathy, tolerance and kindness.”  I don’t see the ‘breeding’ part of this in terms of sympathy.

I guess he hasn’t dealt with psychopaths, co-dependents, and energy sucking, abusive personalities.  Criticizing an abused person that hasn’t fully recovered just causes more pain and backlash than just walking away and calling it impossible.

Principle 2:  Give Honest and Sincere Appreciation
He talks alot about not criticizing and I’m hung up on that word.  If you can’t communicate your perception about a person and what irritates you, then you can’t effectively change a person or form a bond or solid friendship.  Of course if the communication is 100% criticism, it won’t workout, it will feel abusive, attacking of one’s ego and persona, but if there is already a friendship formed, then both parties should feel open and value one another’s criticisms; otherwise, they are no friend at all.  Valuable and Healthy relationships consist of criticism, feedback, listening, and giving and receiving good, honest, and reliable advice and appreciation.

I used to end my friendly conversations with “Thank you for listening to me rattle on and I appreciate your viewpoint, it really helped me see things from a different perspective.”

So often I hear people complain they don’t feel appreciated.  Some require it vocally, some just feel it and are valued from their feelings without words, but to go on underappreciated or undervalued is certainly not healthy; therefore it’s up to the person missing it and needing it to ask for it.  It’s often avoided because it might require an argument, a conversation,where specific examples are necessary for the other person to understand but might not be attainable because of denial or the defensive battle mode they enter when the subject is brought up, not readily accepting what is being said.  After the argument is over, it will take time to feel the appreciation and efforts made to show it, might feel superficial since the person feels they shouldn’t have to ask for it or train someone how to make them feel appreciated.

Some relationships / friendships are salvageable at this point, some are not. Some of the “energy suckers” I found were in need of parenting, didn’t understand how to solve their own childhood problems or inner child problems without the help of others, relying on someone else to resolve conflict or ‘vent’ without taking into consideration how they made the sounding board feel.  When venting or complaining, a person my view the complainer as unable or unwilling to take action, even if the listener recommends it, causing the more emotionally intelligent one to find other sources of positive interaction.

I’ve been through plenty of troubled times personally and while problem solving does help creating stronger deeper relationships, it is in how the person with the problem communicates and what expectations are developed that matter.

For a friend to dump on a friend or get angry because she didn’t console her friend when she needed it, is just widely saying her friend wasn’t there when she needed her, but her friend didn’t take into consideration what and how she had used her friend in the past or understand that her friend didn’t want to be used that way anymore.  Some people don’t know how to interact in a positive way or be a positive force in a relationship; they get stuck on a negative path, affecting those around them.  If a friend gives a solution to the problem, shows them the way out and finds that person won’t take the path but continues to complain, then the friendship naturally decays.  When there is a pattern where the interaction only consists of discussing problems, whether it’s marital, financial, emotional or other challenges, it causes the listener to try to bring the positive to the surface.  If it’s continual, then you realize the person is using you to be a problem solver and it’s up to you to figure out if it’s working for you and giving you positive feelings by being able to perform as their free counselor.  It’s impossible to remain non-judgmental and undoubtedly a smart person would create distance.

It’s tough in friendships spanning across the years to see a person in a negative pattern, working with them through ups and downs on both sides, only to find the person will never come out of complaint and unactionable modes with and without assistance.  A good friend helps take action to solve problems, doing what they can within their means  and a good friend understands a friendships limitations.  Some provide just an ear to listen and sometimes that is all that is needed; other times, friends provide loans, opportunity, safe housing, clothing, food, hugs, smiles, and just companionship.  If the contribution to the friendship is unequal or unbalanced the friendship breaks, leaving broken hearts and bewilderment.

He also talks about Flattery; I’ve also said compliments are nice if sincere, but insincere flattery will get you no where.  When I catch someone trying to use flattery to butter me up, I remind them of my flaws.  Some ladies and even men will give into it and it’s laughable, to say they have a nice smile to get what they want.  I used to compliment people on a regular basis and sometimes used it to win in an argument or just to make someone feel better when they’re feeling low, but never used it expecting to take friendship on a deeper level.

Giving and receiving compliments, a form of flattery, is nice and you have to be willing to give them and also receive them, but they must be genuine, timely, and meaningful, otherwise, it’s just a ploy to get what you want.  Although some get away with it, they don’t realize they too are lacking in emotional intelligence if it works for them.  If someone uses flattery to make up for anger, they are avoiding the main issue or simply trying to redirect the attention onto something else; never really solving the problem.

I’m done with Chapter 2 of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and I’m already sick of his work.  He talks about kindness, appreciation, don’t criticize, and giving compliments, seeing good in people and I’m already fed up with his manufactured blueprint for creating strong relationships.  His words and stories are on such an elementary basic level, I wonder how who his primary audience is.  As if people don’t understand the basics of kindness, appreciation, and feedback.  I guess the majority don’t, which is why we have a 50% divorce rate.

Stop being fake.  Be who you are and if they don’t like it or your style, they can go find someone else to get “compliments, appreciation, and other flowerly friendly love emotions from.” Be respectful, don’t be mean on purpose, apologize if you feel you were, be a good listener, be there when needed, and know when to say enough is enough; I’m not getting what I need from you or give your friend an opportunity to know what is missing.

It’s difficult to talk about needs in friendships since it closely resembles a romantic relationship without sex, especially as you get older.  Meeting a new friend of the same sex is almost like a date, kind of awkward at first, and difficult to get started without a beer, a tennis racquet, basketball, mutual friend or classroom.  It also takes awhile to decide if you really like that person after the honeymoon is over.  It may take an argument to grow closer or end the relationship, but it definitely takes time.

I say “Be Actionable, Reliable, Encouraging, and Funny” this is far better than being a fake complimentor, lazy, and boring friend.  Try not to point out another ones’ flaws to gain acceptance from someone else and don’t capitalize on another man or woman’s deficiency.  Play on each others faults with humor and dedication to the friendship, making sure awareness and acceptance are present.  If you’re irritated or lose in competition, say so and strive for better deciding what is more important, the win or the experience.  Grow together, help each other out, get mad at each other, but shake hands at the end of the day and do it again the next time you need to.

In my friendships, I’ve found major imbalances in intellect, motivation, loyalty, jealousy, and reliability.  Whether it’s been due to age or variations in marital status, I tend to enjoy the company of others that I can learn from, emulate, or help.  I don’t often gravitate towards those who can help me, simply due to pride and not wanting to be burden on people, but did form an expectation of being helped in a time of need by friends that I maintained over a period of time.  When those expectations were not met, I felt abandoned, leaving me to question the ideals of a friendship.

I don’t think I could be friends with an unharmed person due to inability to relate, but I also don’t enjoy the company of friends that want to dwell on the problems or avoid them altogether.  Friends that can relate to certain experiences should be able to talk about their common experiences not to the point of exhaustion, but simply to form a foundation of empathy and commonality if possible.  If one dwells on the issue, they are still not healed from it and if you have the mental energy, you can assist them through it or drag each other down by it; a choice to be made in the beginning, but it requires awareness, patience and a decision.  I’ve found it’s healthy to follow up with a friend when they share their personal problems just to show a genuine interest in wanting to help or to celebrate that the problem was solved, but also to incorporate other activities such as sports, exercise or something else where you can spend quality time together outside of conversational problem solving.

I had one friend tell me “you shouldn’t tell you’re friends your personal problems.”  I laughed at her comment; thought about how far off from reality she was.  Her other friend never wanted to talk about her upbringing for whatever reason, I guess it was a bad scene and even though I could relate and was curious about her past, she shut down the conversation, showing she was not a friend that I could form a deeper long lasting relationship with.  A healthy friendship allows for conversations of bad experiences, as well as problem solving.  If you can’t discuss your personal problems or concerns in a friendship, then it is as shallow as a puddle of mud, secretive, not worth anything more than an occasional beer or ride to the bar to find a better friend.



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