It is amazing how a simple, off the cuff, remark can have such a dramatic effect on a helpless receiver. I was talking with an old friend last week and told him that I had just sent the final draft of my second book off to my publisher, when he blurted out “oh no, not another bloody management book”! Tactful it wasn’t but luckily, this time, I was not at all hurt by it but merely perplexed.
I know there are hundreds of management books written every year, some terrible (probably the majority) and some brilliant but nowadays they are all made of recycled paper and probably will in time be recycled back into newer versions of the same topic. However there was something menacing in the way he implied that management books, might be in themselves a problem. Imagine if he had said “oh no not another bloody novel” or perhaps “…another bloody biography” then the comment could only be interpreted as an inane comment coming from someone who, for some reason, simply hates books. For those millions of people that enjoy reading management books, I should imagine the announcement of a new title is simply another indication that their preferred genre is a valid one.
This incident got me thinking about the countless careless and insensitive remarks that I have made over the years, often just to try and attract attention by innocently injecting sense of humour into a conversation. Of course I do not know how much damage my comments make, or indeed how much they might hurt their recipients. I do know however that I am particularly sensitive to certain types of feedback and criticism; especially of my lectures. Once I had an evaluation where 99% found it ‘good’, or even ‘very good’ and one person ‘completely substandard’. I know, in theory, I should have been very happy with the 99% result, but I wasn’t, I kept fixating on the one individual that gave me a low score. In a way I would almost have felt better with a consistent ‘slightly above average’. At least I could then take a look at the areas where I could improve for next time.
So this week I have decided to try to set aside some time to contemplate the subject a little deeper. I know I cannot undo the hurt I may have caused others but I can at least come to terms with the ones I received and even try and laugh them off. I remember one incident, when I was a teenager performing songs to a large and generally appreciative crowd, when someone said “don’t clap too loud, he might do another one”! These echoes never go away, but at least for humanity the singing did!
Funny old world, what’s the worst comment you ever received?
Have a good week,