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October 18th, 2019
A friend shows you something they’ve been working on,
and it sucks.
Naturally it’s at this point they ask you what you think.
This is a tricky little corner of human affairs. The reason is because we are in conflict but there seems to be a convenient way out. The truth is we think their work sucks, but to say so potentially risks the nice emotional stability of our relationship. And saying it’s great is a straight up lie.
Instead we take what we think is a high middle road. We lend some encouragement. And the reasoning for this lukewarm solution is that while the work isn’t good, it might improve and the current cultural prescription for helping someone is to give positive encouragement. Like giving a dog a treat when it flushes the toilet and washes it’s paws.
This positive, and false encouragement is pure bullshit. The reason is because you can give truthful encouragement. We can say what our honest reaction to the work is, lend an opinion about what our friend was trying to accomplish and perhaps point out one of the ways in which the two could be linked with an improvement.
Instead of just saying… aw… it’s great! keep going!
Let’s look at the word encouragement.
It means from + courage.
What does a person need courage for if they think they’ve already succeeded?
True encouragement, real encouragement, is words designed to help a person face and overcome their failure.
In short it’s the ability to tactfully say: it sucks, but you can work hard and do much better and here are a few specific ways that I think will help you get there.
This gives a person courage to forge on.
If you just tell someone their work is great, what is there to forge on ahead for?
It’s the equivalent of convincing a toddler they’ve won the Boston marathon after taking a couple of tentative first steps. It just doesn’t make sense when we look at it in detail.
The reason why we do it makes sense emotionally. We give false encouragement out of fear.
And it’s no wonder that we lack the ability to give someone else courage,
when we lack the courage to tell the truth in the first place.
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