Criticism – and why it makes me angry

In my freelance job I often have to edit texts and give feedback, in a way a new writer will be motivated and not feel crushed.

Before we send the texts off, another writer or I check it…So, I did my editing part, and I have to admit, because of feeling pain in my knee and not being my usual 100%, but there was just no other editor, I may have overlooked one or two smaller mistakes, which you can fix in less than a minute. We all have good days and bad days….I mean I have fixed small mistakes very often because sending back and waiting is not an option when a deadline is looming.

Usually we don’t look who sent the text or who edited, so my co-worker, whom I  know as friendly and relaxed(at least that’s what I thought) sent me some of her “this is  a very weak text, I don’t like it and you have to fix it or..” stuff. Okay, maybe she had a bad day, too….deep breath and second editing late at night – you may guess it – I overlooked another thingy.

So instead of something motivating she told me to either stop editing completely if I was not able to notice “such a grave mistake” and again “you have to re-write, I don’t like it this and that…or you should drop it”. What I don’t get is that the text was written by a guy I know, in his usual style, which is always okay, and has sometimes a missing comma or something like it, I often edit his stuff and we always send it off and the client likes it.

So, this is an example how critic works: you tell someone she’s wrong or her work is bad or weak, with no positive thing in your feedback, nothing. I have to say my motivation was below zero after the first feedback and after her second mail – you may have guessed it – I dropped the text.

I could feel her anger at me, because she wanted – and that I know for sure – click through and send it off, which takes less than a minute. Writing feedback takes time and what I got was not motivating.

Even feedback given in good-bad-good “slices” (we call it sandwich feedback in German) may not be helpful, because the person who makes a mistake usually has either a bad day (I mean, come on, I am an experienced editor and all the other texts from that day went through) or does not know any better.

So, it’s important to be coaching instead of criticizing. Feedback has to be encouraging – telling someone s/he’s not up for the job, if that person has done a good job with lots of people, and only you don’t like her or his style, is not working.

If the writer is not as resilient as I think I am, s/he may even stop writing and editing, at least for some time. S/he may be angry at you, because you think your style is the only one that counts.

Even if you have instructions how to write a text, we all use different styles and words – I for one always try to make it short and clear, others use more adjectives and “old-fashioned”  (in my opinion) words. Why can’t we all work together in a nice way?

I had to get this out today – and of course I am still editing and writing. I am just not sure how to deal with someone like this online – as we live in different countries.

I even thought maybe she’s being that radical and not nice as part of her youth, she being early twenties, me early fifties. Seems like she’s not able to cut others some slack. Or to forgive and help.

Or I may be wrong and she’s had two bad days.


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