Criticism, Cheerleading, and Negativity


Alex Payne wrote a great piece, here's some excerpts:


....As someone with a penchant for criticism, I’ve often found myself misjudged as “being negative” when mere complaint is furthest from my intention. I’m here to explain myself and people like me.

Criticism Is Not Negativity

The reason a person is critical of a thing is because he is passionate about that thing. In order to have a critical opinion, you have to love something enough to understand it, and then love it so much more that you want it to be better. Passion breeds critical thinking. It’s why criticism as an academic practice comes from a place of deep research and obsession, and why criticism as a cultural product comes from subject matter experts, often self-taught.

Negativity, in contrast, is not the product of passion. There is a certain obvious duality to loving and hating a thing, but the kind of casual negativity that people read into criticism is really a product of apathy. You can’t truly a care about a thing only to casually dismiss it with a negative remark.

“That sucks” is negativity. “That sucks, here’s why, and here’s how to fix it” is criticism, and it comes from a place of love. That’s the difference.

A critic can certainly reduce her criticism to “good” or “bad”, but there’s far more context and nuance at work. Someone with an informed, critical opinion is, in my experience, far less likely to be negative than someone not as informed. If anything, critical thinking adds dimension to an appreciation of the world around you.

Everyone Wants A Cheerleader

Everyone says they’re comfortable with criticism and with critics, because not being able to handle criticism is a sign of immaturity. What people really want, though, are cheerleaders...

A healthy business needs passionate employees to succeed. Critics are the most passionate people you can find, but we’re conditioned to assume that critics are negative curmudgeons with nothing more than slings and arrows to contribute. So rather than seeking out critics, employers seek out cheerleaders.

Cheerleaders are, on the face of it, lovely people to have around an office. They’re just super excited to be there, even if they haven’t had the time or inclination to really think about why. They abhor any suggestion of negativity, and pave over it with empty can-dos. A cheerleader might be a good worker or he might not be. It doesn’t really matter, because the guy is just so damn nice.

Cheerleaders aren’t in love with your business. They care about your business, but from an emotional distance. If you treat them wrong, they’ll disappear and find a newer, happier company to cheerlead at. Critics, conversely, won’t just weather the storm with you; they’ll show up on Monday with a plan for a better umbrella. Who do you want to work with?
The JIDF can relate to this piece on many levels. We deal with many cheerleaders, critics, and those who are just negative about our work in general. By contrast, we celebrate and are critical of many others as well.

Read Payne's full piece here.



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