When I began writing publicly two and a half years ago, a colleague cautioned me. “When you put yourself out there you become a target. You’re going to be attacked and some of it will be very personal. You have to be ready for that.” I can honestly say that in all of that time the only communication I’ve had from my readers has been very positive and constructive. Up until now.
I haven’t shared Joe’s comments on my blog because some of them are quite nasty, but I do want to talk about two key issues that his feedback has raised: criticism and comparison.
In a nutshell, Joe feels that my problem with granite, as described in my How to Find Gratitude on a Day From Hell blog post, is so irrelevant that it doesn’t even bear mentioning. “Try finding the positive in a real life problematic situation. There’s not much inspiration in this….”
Joe must be experiencing something serious and it clearly irks him that I referred to our granite incident as a day from hell. Implicit in his comments is this: “You think that’s hell? You ought to try my hell. Stop whining.”
You know, part of me gets where he’s coming from. After Malcolm died I was deeply irritated by people who complained about things that at the time felt trivial to me. I can’t tell you how many times I thought to myself, “You’re so damned lucky and you don’t even know it. You have nothing to complain about.”
It took me a long time to realize that other people’s frustrations are very real to them in the moment and that I shouldn’t diminish their experiences. Sure, some of the complaints are about things that really aren’t tragedies in the big scheme of things, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t feel negative and awful for the people who are going through them.
Which brings me to the bit about comparisons. If we enter into exchanges or conversations which are essentially based on comparisons like “that’s nothing, you should see what I’m going through”, then we’re in a race to the bottom. Is that really what we want, a race to the bottom? Life isn’t about figuring out who had the crappiest day or who’s having the hardest time at the moment. Crappy lives on a spectrum and all of it is on the negative side of the continuum. If it’s negative, it’s not fun and no one really wants to be in that zone.
I acknowledged in my post that our experience with our kitchen renovation was not the worst thing that could have happened. Yes, it would absolutely garner a #firstworldproblem hashtag on Twitter and it doesn’t rate a “sky is falling” evaluation. But it was crappy for my husband and me because we have put a lot of time, energy, effort and yes money into our home renovation project. We have been planning it for years and working like mad to save for it. It has meant a lot of sacrifices for every member of our family and after two and a half months of living in a temporary kitchen with renovation chaos everywhere we look, we’re tired. The granite incident was stressful for us even if it wasn’t the most awful thing that could have happened.
The point of the blog post was not how crappy and stressful the event was, but rather what we did to get ourselves past that bit of negativity. It worked for us last week and it would work in any situation.
Remember how I said that sometimes you might have to get very creative about finding something for which to be grateful? It might seem nearly impossible to be grateful for something if your world has just been shattered by death, disease or another event of that caliber, but it is nonetheless essential to start pulling yourself away from the events and feelings that will otherwise stop you cold in your tracks.
If I had known, back in 1998, that making an effort to find something, anything, for which to be grateful would help pull me out of my slump, I might have given it a shot. And if I had allowed gratitude to work its magic, I might not have spent so much time mired in feelings of sorrow and helplessness.
When I write about the things that helped me, I’m not trying to inspire anyone. I’m simply passing on real life solutions that worked for me. If they resonate with you and you want to give them a shot, terrific. If they don’t click with you at all, that’s fine too.
I’m grateful that Joe reached out and shared the fact that my blog post didn’t work for him. I just wish he had done it in a more constructive way. I welcome critiques and counterpoints, but as my PhD thesis supervisor used to say, “Attack the ideas, not the person. Remember also that you need to fully understand the ideas before you criticize them.” Joe could have started a really good conversation if he had dropped the nasty put-downs and instead addressed his real issue with my post.
One of the real estate blogs that I follow is written by a colleague of mine, Julie Broad. Julie has written a terrific book, More Than Cashflow, which I enjoyed very much. As expected, she eventually received a negative review and here’s what she had to say about the whole thing: “The people who will judge and criticize you are NOT the ones achieving greatness, creating success and having a lasting positive impact on others.”
Constructive criticism helps us grow when it’s done well and in a balanced way. But the kind of stuff that Julie and I got? No one’s going to grow from that.
Until next time, Survive, Thrive & Grow.