I stand up and share when asked to speak at a conference. I put tremendous effort to write a book so that it might help people in developing their story sharing. I sit and have a conversation with someone who is going through a difficult time and help them in their journey and ask for nothing in return. Is it about how good it will make me look or to gain accolades? Do I give of myself so that I get some sort of recognition? For those who know me, the answer is no and I give of myself to others because it matters to me and those around. People matter to me! For those who do not know me, the answer is yes, I seek fame because I am self centred, one dimensional and I am doing it for me. How different these perspectives are and it is all based on how much someone might know me.
Recently, I have had the following comments:
• On my TEDxSFU talk – one of the worst TED talks i have heard. You need to stop reading from notes and stop talking about yourself. (unfortunately, that is the only comment up there and I did not read from my notes)
• At a conference I spoke at, someone’s feedback was – Sam mainly talked about himself. He was boring. Many of my colleagues agreed. I did not see the relevance to us as career practitioners. (But the talk was designed by those who organized the conference and they wanted my personal stories to help career practitioners to better understand the journey)
• On ‘rate my professor’, a student said – I learned nothing from this course and if it is a mandatory course, Sam Thiara should not teach this course. (You never told me why or what I could do to improve)
Now while these comments are stingers, there were many comments and appreciation from people that you sometimes might see or never experience. People who have appreciated the TEDx talk, said that the conference keynote was so important to them and that they felt I was a good teacher. So why does this matter? I am human and these do impact me as they would impact anyone. It stands out very prominently and the more we do, the more we are open to be criticized. There is a constructive way to tell someone what you think and then there are destructive ways.
Haters and do-gooders, people who are vast in their ways. One shares and tries their best and the other comments and brings them down. Which one are you and are you aware of which one you are? It makes one wonder why those who risk and put themselves out there should do what they do and to put them selves in the crosshairs to receive such negative comments? It is why so many people are not comfortable putting themselves out there. Do we shy away or not undertake being visible? The reason you have to go forward and carry one is that those who make such comments can not win and silence you. No matter how hard they try, it makes one fight that much more. If they silence us, the world would be colourless, tasteless and bland. Those who make such comments try and take away what is yours to share. They don’t even know who you are or what you do but they easily make comments that can have a profound impact on you.
It reminds me of a mountaineering way of thinking. If there is a difficult mountain to climb, someone on the ground questions the climber: “Why do you climb, all that effort and danger…you can’t stay up there, you have to come back and we will both be standing here again so why bother?” Here is the difference, the climber comments: “As someone on the ground, you can only imagine what it is like, as a climber. I know what is here as I stand beside you, but I know what is above and I know the road there and how difficult it was and I know the road down and how difficult it was.” What this says is that you can watch and comment but you do not know my journey. Unless you climb with me, you can only watch and observe.
So should we remove all negative comments? Of course not! There is a need for people to have the freedom to share their feedback in a respectful and constructive way but to tell someone it is the worst or boring does nothing to help the individual grow from the experience. It seems that someone can hide by anonymity or distance themselves and can say what they feel like because they know the individual is too far away. I guess my assessment is that if it is a comment or feedback, if you can’t say it to them personally, then you should make sure you don’t put it in a derogatory way because that person has feelings and you never know the impact it makes. I can share this but I know it makes no difference to an individual who is freely able to say negative comments in a hurtful way because it is insensitive and they probably won’t get it.
Is this a request for positive feedback…no! Just a reminder of how we say things. Save the negative words and take a few moments to think of what to say before you say it or before you write it or before you share it. Offer constructive feedback and ask yourself, how would I feel if someone said this to me. Some times the negative comments are intentional and some times they are unintentional. What you don’t want to be is the person who shatters someone’s dreams because if you think about it, they were not selfish because they shared of themselves and the person who made the negative comment was selfish.
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