The Uselessness of “Constructive” Criticism

FingerpointOver the weekend I received an email from a woman who apparently watched my "Branding Secrets of Santa Claus" live webinar replay. Here is the entire message:

"Thanks for the content, but why don't you value my time? I don't need to wait for you to drink your coffee."

I actually thought she was just being funny, but to be sure I responded with:

"Excuse me? I don't understand."

She immediately replied:

"While the content of your message was useful, your delivery seemed scattered. A lot of time while you looked for the light, drank your coffee, etc. You could have made this video much more concise."

So suffice it to say, she was serious. During my free, live webinar, I made the mistake of taking a drink of coffee and fixing one of my lights, which took a grand total of 27.1 seconds of her valuable time.

Without boring you with the specifics of the rest of our back-and-forths, I told her she took herself too seriously and didn't belong among my BFFs, so I banned her from my lists. Of course, she used a second email address and stated that apparently I can't take constructive criticism.

And that's where I get annoyed. 

I get annoyed because when people get called to the carpet for saying something like she did, they often hide behind the haughty, "Oh, I guess you don't want any constructive criticism."

There's no such thing as "constructive" criticism. That phrase in itself is an oxymoron.

Dictionary.com defines criticism as, "…the act of passing severe judgment; censure, faultfinding." And more often than not, the criticism is not only unwelcome, it's unnecessary. Critics, too often, want to sound smart, not helpful, and nowadays hide behind "Internet courage," i.e. saying something electronically they would never have the guts to say in person.

I'm sure many of you are thinking I'm making a mountain out of a molehill…that this is no big deal and I should just shrug it off. I disagree. In my experience, people who intentionally offer "constructive" criticism to me offer it to everybody else and they usually get away it. They are bullies. I have no intention of letting someone get away with it. It stops with me.

Does this mean I don't accept or expect feedback or disagreement with my speeches, writings, or thinkings? Of course not. If we all agreed on everything, then one of us would be redundant…and it wouldn't be you.

I want to make you uncomfortable and challenge your heuristics. And I welcome the same from you. But if you say to me, "I don't need to wait for you to drink your coffee," that neither challenges my thinking, nor is it constructive.

And don't even think about getting me started on the popular, but completely stupid phrase, "It's nothing personal. It's only business."