The article is a very powerful and simple one in a way, as it instantly changed my behaviour. I became more vigilant over my written communication since I read it and strangely do feel more confident and calm when emailing and talking with people. In a few days these simple changes in the way I spoke and wrote saw me stating my case clearly instead of timidly asking permission. However, I wasn’t sure if my behaviour personally was simply down to good manners and subservience as such, I felt it was a little more complicated.
I am by nature a shy person, but have spent a lifetime being bubbly and quick with a joke to disguise the fact. This quirk in my personality led to a destructive habit, putting myself down before others could. Initially it does deflect criticism and bullying, but in the long term you start to believe what you are telling yourself. If you are honest, what you tell yourself is not acceptable, and you certainly wouldn’t say such things to another person. I think there is a little of this in the problem of over-apologising and, to some extent, the ‘Imposter Syndrome’. We fear criticism and we fear being rejected, so we ‘get in there first’.
To be able to be confident in our skills and expertise, to be able to stop apologising incessantly, to be able to believe we are where we are because we worked hard and not because we were lucky, we have to be able to take criticism. At its best it is constructive and illuminating, helping us to identify weak points, forge business bonds and get much needed feedback. There’s the rub. Criticism is often not kind, informative or intended to help. Just a quick look at review sites for restaurants or hotels demonstrated quite blatant viciousness and vitriol directed publicly to hurt and damage. I was shocked, as some were not reviews at all but simple venting from an angry person with an unhappy life.
When you start a business it is a very personal endeavour. You are new at it, you will make many mistakes and feel naïve and ridiculous for quite some time, trust me! It is this stage where the ‘Imposter Syndrome’ strikes, and in some cases can persist. When something means that much to you, of course you don’t want your dreams publicly decimated just because you are still finding your feet. In my opinion we all have a responsibility, a responsibility to be kind and helpful, even when we are disappointed. All of us have a duty to censor our language and the effect our words can have on others. To take criticism, we have to learn how to give criticism and use our words with temperance and wisdom. Do you want a business or service to improve and grow or give up and walk away? Your words can sway that decision.
If you don’t like a book, if you were not impressed by a meal or the standard you were hoping for was missing, then review your experience. Say what you did like, but equally mention what you would prefer to see in the future, maybe even how to do it. Criticism given kindly will more likely be adopted as practice, if you vent you will be ignored and nobody wins.
We do indeed live in a democratic society that permits free speech and freedom of expression. This does not mean you are entitled to use words as weapons because you are having a bad day, week, month or year. Instead of using your words as weaponry, use them to guide, advise and state your case clearly, then perhaps people will stop over-apologising, will stop feeling like they shouldn’t be where they are and we can all enjoy the free exchange of ideas and our community can develop with confidence for all. Therefore I am not sorry, are you?