We all have our personality quirks. Thanks to my Mom who is very outspoken and my Dad who is the nicest guy on the planet, my brain is wired to readily express my opinion with trepidation that I am being mean or insulting. Add to the mix my own practice of trying to carefully present an argument because I might very well be wrong and you’ll understand why I’m in a near-constant state of internal conflict.
This is why I write – to help work out these competing tendencies so I can make sense of my feelings and perhaps come to some resolution in thinking about subjects. Let me be clear though, I don’t spend my day looking for stuff to complain about (though lots of people tell me that I do). I pick my battles and I let nearly 100% of people’s opinions to slide by unchallenged. It’s only worth speaking up if I might have a chance to make a difference.
Yesterday, I wrote a post about the Science March that was critical of the organizers and intent. My point was that a good opportunity was wasted by bad management. It was generally ignored by my friends but seemed to catch the attention of people I didn’t know were listening.
Last night, after a disappointing meal at a local restaurant, I wrote a private email to the place carefully laying out why I was displeased I didn’t get reasonable value for my money and how they might consider improvements.
Last month, I reported a medical practice to my insurance company for what I believe to be careless and unethical behavior.
In the examples above, I’m being critical but fair in expressing my opinions. I don’t do it to get attention or placation. I do it because I’m compelled to share these ideas nagging at me until I do. I don’t want others to experience that disappointment or anger as I did. I’d like it fixed instead of perpetuating a problem.
I get plenty of people saying how I’m a downer, that I should keep quiet and not make a fuss, to let people do what they want no matter if it detrimentally affects others. (With regards to teacher issues in my kids’ school, they warned me I better not say anything because that would be mortifying to them.) That could be fine for some but it’s not for me. I naively think that if more people spoke out in a reasonable way, maybe things would improve in the country (or the neighborhood or the world). I want things to improve and I’m not sorry that I point out that you (restaurant, organizers, book author, college, business, media outlet) could do better. I’m not asking for perfection. I’m asking to try to fix something that can readily be fixed or improved upon in anticipation for the next time this happens. Constructive feedback is very worthwhile though not usually welcomed when unsolicited. If you are serving the public in any capacity, I believe you should make a reasonable effort to do the best you can with what you’ve got.
Imagine the benefit to society if we all tried to do good with regards to public interactions, aiming for at least 4 out of 5 stars. Shouldn’t it be a social convention to at least try to not be sloppy or indifferent to others? Yet, everyday I experience reporters, doctors, teachers, store clerks, fast food servers, etc. not making a suitable effort. And I also see complainers wanting an unfair over-the-top deal for themselves at the expense of others. How do we change a culture so that everyone tries a bit harder to do better for the collective instead of just serving their own interests? (I’m looking at you, Congress!)
To be consistent, I try to also make an effort to praise a job well done. So, might have seen me tweet to Delta airline that my kid has very pleasant experiences flying their airline. And, I gave a shout out to a convenience market chain who made an effort to protect our private information which facilitating the return of lost keys. That was pretty cool. They did good. I sure appreciate that kind of effort. Meanwhile, the restaurant informed me that they are making changes directly related to my complaints. So, looks like I’ll be going back there again. Yay.