Sunday, July 19, 2015

                         If You Don’t Want to Know the Answer, Don’t Ask the Question

     A few days ago, I had a brief anxiety attack over a question I risked asking a good friend. She answered the question truthfully, and it hurt my feelings. Duh. Why would I ask a question that would set me up for criticism, scrutiny or simply feeling bad? I’m stupid? I wanted a different answer than the truth? Double duh. One would think that after being burned through the years by criticism from everything to “How do I look” to “Did you enjoy my story?” that I would have learned that lesson by now. Nope. Not me. I get an A in resilience, and an F in common sense.

     My FOO issues spring out of nowhere just when I think I’m over them. Well, guess what? No matter how old we are, how intellectually we are able to justify, rationalize, analyze hurts
or insults, the phantom FOO is still there making us feel like we are 4 and are being sent to our rooms because we are “bad.” Hmm. I know 21st century parents can’t relate to this, but in my day, that’s the way it was. You were either “good” or “bad,” and it wasn’t what you did, it was who you were. I’m certainly happy to see that parents beginning with my generation have realized the damage that can be done to a young child when they are labeled early in life. Now parents criticize the behavior, not the child. Duh. Good FOO you!

     Last night, I went to a meeting where I had to stand up in front of 20 people and give a speech. Now if that’s not putting yourself out there, I don’t know what is. Was I afraid? A little, but I have learned that the oral evaluation in front of the group was about my performance, not about me. Does it hurt less if I’m criticized in this context? Yes, but not a lot. The difference is that in that context, I am there to learn and to improve. It’s about performing not about being. I did an “B” job—nothing to brag about, for sure, but I knew when I sat down what I needed to work on, so when the criticism came, I was prepared. The oral evaluation was positive, but the anonymous ones written by each member and delivered in a small envelope at the end of the meeting told the real story. The people who know how the speech was supposed to go caught my errors clearly. They were very kind in their wording, so that didn’t hurt. A couple of people who were obviously not schooled in this kind of short evaluation were more candid and less careful. Bottom line, it’s not just what we say when we offer “constructive criticism,” it’s how we say it. Words are powerful. 

     Any wife who asks her husband in the 21st century, “Does this make me look fat?” is obviously not in touch with this concept. Any parent who criticizes a child in front of others and demeans the child should be put into parent time-out sans alcohol.

     I will save my anxiety attacks for more important things like eating too much mac n cheese.