We’ve become too soft

Constructive criticism isn’t harassment; it’s an opportunity for growth.

I knew things were changing when I interviewed someone a few years ago, and he showed up in tracksuit trousers and a white t-shirt. One of the other interviewers and I were so confused that we walked past him at reception twice before realising he was there for us. I thought it might just be that no one had ever told him what appropriate attire for an interview was, but then it started to happen everywhere. People started attending weddings in shorts and dinner parties looking like they were auditioning for the Moulin Rouge.

It wasn’t just the clothes either – even the attitudes to receiving feedback started to change. Several friends have spoken to me about how their students perpetually challenge the marks they’re given, even when they’re good. Other people have told me that they were accused of bullying for pointing out serious mistakes being made at the workplace that could literally impact other people’s lives. Now, I knew the world was due some softness, but I’m starting to think that we got it wrong somewhere along the way.

No society can function without rules and regulations, and people can’t really improve themselves if they constantly leave from the point of view that everyone’s ideas are equal. This way of thinking not only doesn’t work but also creates individuals with no backbone and a limited amount of self-awareness. If no one ever tells you that you can’t sing, then you might well go through life thinking you’re Mariah Carey till you get on stage in front of a bunch of people and are rudely awoken to the fact that you’d barely be chosen to be a Kylie Minogue impersonator.

Recently, I witnessed a woman having a full-blown argument with a doctor because she had Googled something and decided that her diagnosis was the correct one. This woman didn’t appear to have any medical knowledge at all and was insisting that she knew the right way forward. It’s wild to me that anyone would compromise their health because they genuinely decide that they know better than the person who spent years studying to be able to see things the rest of us can’t.

Instead of continuously lying to people and telling them that they can be or do anything, maybe we should teach them how to play to their strengths and give them the space to evolve instead of setting them up for disappointment and then getting angry when people point out the obvious.

Constructive criticism isn’t harassment; it’s an opportunity for growth; dressing appropriately for an occasion is a sign of courtesy and respect, and for God’s sake, if you can’t carry a note, content yourself with singing in the shower like the rest of us.

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