I was just reading a comment on something I said recently when I thought of a subject for a post. I didn’t manage to write anything yesterday because I left it late and then had so much to say I couldn’t do it coherently.
Helen mentioned proofreading, and it set something off in my head.
Once, I was asked to proofread some documents. They were dull, repetitive, badly organised and owed more than a little to Mrs Malaprop. I resisted the temptation to rewrite everything, because that would be rude. I resisted the temptation for humour at the expense of the writer, because they were obviously doing their best.
In short, I was polite. I corrected the spelling mistakes and typos and I substituted the correct word. I can’t remember the exact word but it was a common mistake, something in the order of purposely purposefully. No big deal. Then I sent the correction off and got on with my proper work.
A week or so later the agenda for the Management Committee meeting came out and included an item on “proofreading”. If they’d called it “vitriolic personal attack on Simon” it would have been more accurate.
Anyway, we got to Item 3 “Proofreading”, and the committee member concerned took a deep breath before launching her attack.
Several weeks previously the farm had tested bushcraft/mindfulness workshop put on by someone who was doing a psychology course. It was not, for a number of reasons, my sort of thing and as it was on my day off, I didn’t go.
However, I was told, I should have gone because that would have taught me the proper way to bring up the issue of corrections and I would have avoided hurting the feelings of the writer. I should, she told me, have mentioned something good about the work she did, given her the corrections and then gone on to say something nice about her work again.
This, of course, assumed that she had ever done two pieces of decent work. I am not convinced, from what I saw, that this was the case.
You may recognise the technique. In polite circles it’s known as the “praise sandwich“, the “feedback sandwich”, the “sandwich technique” or the “constructive criticism sandwich”. It’s an insincere and predictable technique, which often fails to get the message across and has never, as far as I can remember, been considered a good technique, except by people who write books on how to manage. And yes, there is another term for it.
I smiled, apologised for my lack of manners and management sophistication and prepared for Item 4.
That was when the floodgates opened. I was, it seems, rude, arrogant and totally lacking in empathy. Unlike me, she didn’t have a degree or a good education and she was doing her best. Blah, blah, blah…
It seemed like a long time, though it was probably only a few minutes. I switched off and let it run its course. The irony, of course, is that I don’t have a degree. However, you don’t need a degree when you have a dictionary and know what order the letters are in.
I believe that best practice in management is to praise people when you can, and when they need correcting giv e it to them straight. If you give praise where it is due there should be no need to dress the criticism up.
So, how does this relate to anything? or is it just an Ancient Blogger rattling on to fill space?
Well, it relates to criticising blogs. I was very tempted to comment negatively on a blog post this week because somebody was commenting on the Harry and Meghan interview. Unfortunately they seemed to believe everything said about it by (a) Meghan and (b) a number of American journalists. The post and the journalists relied mainly on opinion, and when facts were available in two cases they didn’t use them.
However, do I have the right to go onto another blog and criticise it? Is it really important? Harry and Meghan are, in truth, not important. They think they are, but that is a different matter. When I find a blog I don’t like or a blogger who irritates me I try to avoid them rather than argue.
This brings up my three questions. One is just a repeat of the one above – do we have a right to go on someone’s blog and disagree or criticise?
Two, if that blog is deliberately provocative, does this alter the answer?
Three, if we don’t argue, are we validating their points? By not engaging in a debate about the veracity of everything said by Harry and Meghan, am I actually helping them to establish their version of the facts as truth?
And for those of you who don’t follow the links – a Dogberryism is the same as a malapropism. This is something I learned today, which illustrates the difference between having a degree and having an education.