Let me begin with an anecdote concerning a moment during my first professional job.
As technical support and operations staff, our contact channels with customers are email and telephone. Due to the nature of our job, we managed to convince management that professional office wear was impractical and we were allowed to dress casually. Sometimes indecently, topless in the evening hours, but that is another story for another time. The point is our office quickly became a fashion walkway; we lavished in the freedom to express our true individual styles and made multiple turns for the photographers.
Needless to say, being the unique personality that I was/am, my dressing was sometimes "unusual".
And needless to say, not everybody shared a common sense of fashion.
Which was perfectly fine for me, I dress as I please. You dress as you please. I dress to please myself, not anybody else. If you do not like it, well, too bad for you. I do not really care.
And thus came this incident when a colleague commented negatively about my clothing that day. To which my repsonse was, "it's all right. your opinions don't matter." Now, take note that all these were just happening in jest; a simulated fight. There wasn't any true lashing. But the defining moment came with her next candid response going something like, "wow Aaron! You look so cool and stylish!"
"Your opinions still don't matter."
I had possibly voiced out a perspective that is seemingly unhuman, for it stunned her for awhile. Her sequence of actions, while in jest, clearly exposes the area of weakness where humans are incredibly vulnerable. Still do not know what I am driving here? Let us then take a diversion to learn a lesson from Phil Factor's advice on How to Insult People in Forums.
In that post, he recommends, instead of primitive direct insults, "techniques" of carefully worded sentences that look like complimentary affection when they are maximised to inflict damage only visible to all spectators other than the target it was intended for. For certain, it is more fun. But it only works because the pediatrician he worked with taught him
"Nobody is immune from politeness and flattery", he told me. "In fact, there seems to be no upper-limit to the amount of flattery that a person can absorb. If you can compliment and encourage the person that you must instruct, then any reproach is accepted more readily. There are ways of phrasing a painful truth about a person’s skills or conduct that will deflect hurt feelings, and therefore be accepted more readily. All you get by haranguing people for their foolishness is resentful resistance."
So the word is out: people are more than willing to scoop up praises regardless of their origin. Like money. But I have some news. That statement is a backward assumption. The proof? Yours truly. I am immune.
Early on into my working life, I had already developed the anti-thesis of the "thick skin" and utterly dislike praises directed at me. I simply do not, cannot, respond emotionally in a positive way to doses of "good job!" "well done!" "you're good!" "fantastic!" "excellent!" tossed my way. My ego remains status quo. Why? What exactly is going on in my mind?
"How can you call this a good job? It sucked."
No matter how highly others think of me, I am in a constant state of self disparage. For whatever I have accomplished, it was never the vision I was dreaming of. A vision that could be achieved but did not come to realisation due to a variety of reasons both within and without my control. It puzzles me, in fact, on how others do not recognise that the gap between the potential and the actual results are quite far apart. It simply ain't good enough.
Ever heard the phrase "Flattery will get you nowhere" ?
Actually, whether it is a praise or criticism isn't the truly frustrating part. What annoys me is the absence of any qualitative or quantitative explanation why a person feels something was done well or poorly. A terse, short assertion with zero assessment and analytical content is essentially noisy utterance carrying no value.
I do not care whether you liked it or not. Just tell me something to help me improve my craft/activity.
Is that too much to ask for? Why do people like to give commentary that has no actionable content? It is that diffcult to provide assements like
"That is an excellent idea. By breaking out of the loop early with this condition check, the rest of the redundant logic need not be executed anymore, and that saved us up to 80% processing time. Now, if we can refactor this work logic into its own class, the condition check won't even be necessary , shrinking our code and making it more maintainable."
When will those days come?