Criticism is an indirect form of self-boasting. – Emmet Fox
I find it very difficult to wrap my brain around the thought processes of some people. As we go through life we interact with others, and make hundreds of decisions every day regarding those interactions; sometimes we make errors in judgment due to ignorance of a situation, or misinterpret another’s feelings and thereby inadvertently cause offense, or foolishly believe a person will react one way when a little insight into his or her personality would’ve predicted a very different reaction (this is especially true when the people involved are of the opposite sex). But every once in a while someone does something so clearly wrong, so obviously rude and so predictably off-putting that one has to wonder if he might not have been under the influence of some potent psychoactive drug at the time.
Most of my readers are probably fair-to-middling cooks; some of you are probably bad or terrible cooks, and some good or excellent ones (any of you who happen to be professional chefs will have to imagine another skill, say illustration, in the place of cooking). Now, consider a circumstance wherein you meet a woman who’s an excellent cook. She has a small restaurant where she has served literally millions of satisfied customers over the years, and is often paid to cater at events; she is widely admired for her cooking skills, has often been asked (and even paid) to critique others’ cooking, and takes justifiable pride in her abilities. Her style, however, does not adhere to current culinary fads; it’s a little old-fashioned and is too complex and highly-spiced for some people, and some dieters feel her portions are too large. Perhaps you’ve encountered her restaurant for the first time, or perhaps you’ve been eating there several times a week for months or years, but at some point you decide that either her preparation of one particular dish, or the way she prepared that dish on one particular day, or even the way she cooks in general, could be improved by some change you have in mind. Now, you don’t own a restaurant; nobody has particularly praised your cooking lately, and even the cooking you do practice is of a different culinary tradition. Do you:
A) Continue to enjoy her food, which really is very good despite the aspect you don’t like;
B) Enjoy the food, but fantasize about how much better it would be if she took your suggestions;
C) Stop going there, and find another restaurant you like better;
D) Ask to speak to her privately and offer your helpful amateur suggestions about how she could improve;
E) Same as D, but at the top of your lungs in front of a packed dining room at her restaurant.
If any of you seriously believe that either D or E is a good idea, and you’ve never been diagnosed as lying somewhere on the autism spectrum, I sincerely suggest you re-examine all of the recent instances in which you’ve mightily pissed someone off and just can’t understand why she should have been insulted. What could possibly be wrong with her? Doesn’t she get that you were just trying to be helpful? Why can’t she humbly accept your wisdom in order to improve herself? Why are all women so crazy?
And after that, you might want to reconsider that helpful email, comment or tweet you’re about to write me.