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Source: (consider it) Thread: Offencesensitivity.
lilBuddha
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I've been thinking about this recently and this morning received a fresh reminder.
A dear friend paid me a compliment and my first reaction was not gratitude, but hurt and offence. The specifics are unimportant to this discussion, but the mechanism relates. My friend unknowingly challenged my internal view of a personal thing and my instinctive reaction was defensive.
This is how we are programmed, if you will. A challenge, real or perceived, meets defence. However, in today's more complex world, this behaviour is not always beneficial. It causes unnecessary strife, closes our minds against reason and makes us susceptible to manipulation.
I see it here often, as well. A belief is challenged and the response is anger, even though that very challenge is part of the purpose of this website.
I am not saying offence is always internal perception, but that it is more often than we admit.

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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mousethief

Ship's Thieving Rodent
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Do you think this is innate, or learned? Would a child given a similar compliment take it at face value and be happy?

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“Religion doesn't fuck up people, people fuck up religion.”—lilBuddha

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Do you think this is innate, or learned? Would a child given a similar compliment take it at face value and be happy?

Most people would be happy with the compliment. There was nothing wrong with it. Essentially, one creative effort that I felt was phoned in was praised as being above others that involved more effort, creativity and skill. So I have more invested in others. They had also been complimented by the same person. But to hear that one of lesser worth, in my own reckoning, were considered better; felt like a challenge to my self to my efforts. It was not meant so, and I know this. However, that was the instinctive reaction.
My point is this is the mechanism by which we often feel offence. When we feel attack or threat to something by which we identify ourselves.

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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mousethief

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I don't identify myself with my car, but if someone were taking a sledgehammer to it, I'd feel attacked and threatened, even if I weren't in it.

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“Religion doesn't fuck up people, people fuck up religion.”—lilBuddha

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simontoad
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Interesting topic. Thanks for posting. I know a few people, my wife included, who tend to be dismissive of compliments, but I don't think that she reacts angrily. It's hard to tell though, because she is very wise, and will not speak if she feels she is very upset. I do not have that capacity.

I very much react to challenge by anger and aggression, anything that I perceive attacks my status or my sense of what I value in myself, which I call honor.

I am not so sure that the way I react is an innate human thing. Both my parents and my sister react the same way, but my brother has more self-control. Certainly, my parents believed that the way to respond to perceived threats was to act aggressively. My Dad often said that if you are the first to raise your fists you will never have to use them. It was his tragedy that he had a wimp for a son, who dealt with his schoolyard enemies using stealth instead of frontal attack, and refused to fight even to protect his little brother from bullying. Even today as I was remembering Dad's philosophy with my mother she said, "That's right. It's the only way to survive in this world."

I can only approach this subject from my own experience, but I'd be very interested to hear others' perspectives.

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Human

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Boogie

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# 13538

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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
I don't identify myself with my car, but if someone were taking a sledgehammer to it, I'd feel attacked and threatened, even if I weren't in it.

And if they criticised it?

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Garden. Room. Walk

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Tortuf
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I view the world through the lens of my own ego self. Perhaps one of these days I will be able to completely detach, but that day is not today.

When someone challenges my ego view I react, either condemning the other person as wrong, or feeling self doubt. Either way I feel an immediate need to set whoever it is straight.

That is my first thought. When I catch myself going down that road I can oftentimes let go of the thought. I never let go completely, but some is better than none. When I let go I can move on.

I see that in others. This is especially the case with some people who like to plan everything. Even if the new idea, or way, of accomplishing the goal is valid, it is rejected because it is not within the other persons vision for how things should be.

Is it innate or learned? Perhaps both. It seems part of the human condition, although it is more pronounced in some.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Tortuf:
Is it innate or learned? Perhaps both. It seems part of the human condition, although it is more pronounced in some.

I think both is the answer to most human behaviour. The core of our brain is built to deal with a world of relatively simple and immediate concerns. We have the capability to reason beyond this, but do it less often than we generally think.

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
I don't identify myself with my car, but if someone were taking a sledgehammer to it, I'd feel attacked and threatened, even if I weren't in it.

And if they criticised it?
This is an excellent question because it throws light on the subject. If I had a car that I really cared about, that I had spent years refinishing for example, then it would matter a lot more to me when someone criticized it than my current serviceable but not sexy car. But then, it would be more reasonable to say that I identified with the car. In other words, the more one identifies with the car -- this car represents all the work I put into it, my seven figure income, whatever -- the more I would feel personally attacked if someone attacked my car by insulting it.

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“Religion doesn't fuck up people, people fuck up religion.”—lilBuddha

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balaam

Making an ass of myself
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I am a little different to this.

Things which challenge my worldview hurt, and I can get a bit angry. Seeing other people treated in a way that would hurt me makes me absolutely furious.

I tend to rationalise myself too much.

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To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin
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Anyuta
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I can very much relate to the scenario in the OP. Receiving praise for something you don't think is worth of praise (or as worthy as other things) make it feel, to me, superficial or even false. I feel like "you don't know what you are talking about, therefore your praise is meaningless". Even if that isn't the case, but because their praises is of something I don't think worthy (in my own judgement) that is my internal reaction.

On a similar note, I grew up fairly thin and attractive. I then gained weight. At one point I lost the weight, but in my mind I was simply returning to the "real me". When people said things like "wow, you really lost weight" I would (internally) react negatively, because to me it put emphasis on the weight I had gained. It felt like a slap in the fact not a compliment. Even now, that I have re-regained that weight and been carrying it for decades, any reference to weightloss is perceived as stressing the overweight, or simply false (sheesh, I'm still fat even after loosing weight, why would you bring attention to it).

Out loud I react as one is expected to. I say thank you and move on. but inside, even if I know it's irrational, I am upset.

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Boogie

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quote:
Originally posted by Tortuf:
This is especially the case with some people who like to plan everything. Even if the new idea, or way, of accomplishing the goal is valid, it is rejected because it is not within the other persons vision for how things should be.
.

This is my husband too.

I’m an impulsive, quick thinker and early adopter. My husband is a slow, careful planner.

I have learned not to put my ideas to him as I have them - he is very negative if I do and that really upsets me. But his negativity, I’ve discovered, is buying thinking time. He simply can’t talk things through! My thought is ‘well it was only an idea, it’s not set in stone, we could at least talk about it’. My idea would have been 30 seconds old at most. But, if he proposes an idea he will have spent a great deal of time thinking it through and have all possible angles covered.

So, these days I say ‘I’m going to tell you an idea I’ve had and I want no response whatever from you, we’ll talk about it tomorrow’. By and large this approach works [Smile]

--------------------
Garden. Room. Walk

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BroJames
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This reminds me a little of what C.S. Lewis says in "On Criticism" in Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories by C.S. Lewis except in reverse
quote:
You and I might condemn a passage in a book for being 'laboured'. Do we mean by this that it sounds 'laboured'.? Or are we advancing the theory that it was in fact 'laboured'.?
He points out that rather than describing the work and its qualities or lack thereof, the critic has attempted to guess at a cause for it being the way it is. The only person who knows whether that comment is true is the creator of the work - and if the critic's guess is wrong then the comment is likely to be devalued, even if true, and dismissed and resented if false.

A comment which says something like "I like this because of the way it does such and such" is one thing, a comment which says or implies "you must have put a lot of work into… " if incorrect, doesn't impress one as a compliment because one knows the premise is false, and implicitly devalues things one has worked hard on because they have passed by without being noticed for praise.

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Crœsos
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A cautionary tale about taking offense.

quote:
He took offense.

It started out in college. You know, just experimenting with it. But he liked it. He liked how it made him feel.

For a while it was just recreational — weekends and parties and rallies and that kind of thing. But soon he was hanging out with some pretty hard-core users, with the kind of people who took offense all the time. They didn’t need a reason or an excuse, it was just what they did. It was who they were. Soon he found he couldn’t get through the day without it.

Over the years he even learned to grow his own, to take the tiniest seeds of umbrage and nurture them into full-grown pretexts for outrage. The good stuff.

Some of his old friends tried to stage an intervention — to convince him that he had a problem, that his whole life had become consumed by his addiction.

He didn’t respond well. He just took more offense — right there in front of them.



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Humani nil a me alienum puto

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Og, King of Bashan

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I read a lot of books about communicating with three year olds these days, and one of the most valuable chapters I have read is about how to word compliments. Compliments can be really tricky, and we learn to read negativity into them at an early age. Even when we are three, it's easy for a compliment to come off as insincere or backhanded. I have started doing a lot more specific description of what I see rather than general praise ("I can see how you took that green crayon and followed the line Daddy drew for you" rather than "You are so good at drawing lines!) and I would like to think that she responds more positively. All to say that I think this kind of thing is pretty hard-wired into the human brain, and it takes years for us to learn how to more or less accept challenges as something other than a personal affront. And even then we aren't always very good at it.

(Does anyone else have nightmares where you find yourself having a toddler-style meltdown in front of adult friends, family, or work associates, over some small matter? I have that one a few times per month, and I hate it.)

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"I like to eat crawfish and drink beer. That's despair?" ― Walker Percy

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churchgeek

Have candles, will pray
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quote:
Originally posted by balaam:
I am a little different to this.

Things which challenge my worldview hurt, and I can get a bit angry. Seeing other people treated in a way that would hurt me makes me absolutely furious.

I tend to rationalise myself too much.

You and me both. Half the time when something bad happens to me, what I get upset about is the generalization of it.

quote:
Originally posted by Anyuta:
I can very much relate to the scenario in the OP. Receiving praise for something you don't think is worth of praise (or as worthy as other things) make it feel, to me, superficial or even false. I feel like "you don't know what you are talking about, therefore your praise is meaningless". Even if that isn't the case, but because their praises is of something I don't think worthy (in my own judgement) that is my internal reaction.

I think that's really insightful. In addition, if you're not, like the OP, also getting some kind of compliment for something you do think deserves it, then it can feel like the complimenter is saying, "Oh, that's good work, coming from you."

In the late '90s I self-published 3 books of poetry (as my own version of what my friends were doing - musicians releasing their own CDs and photographers making prints to sell), and I did get compliments on some of the stuff I thought was filler. Sometimes it bothered me a little; other times, I thought it reflected on the person's taste; and other times, I thought, "Well, to each her own!" Now, if I give those books to anyone, I tell them, "I still like about half the material in here. I'll let you assume what you like is what I like, too!" I guess I learned from the experience that you can't tell what creative work of yours is going to find a home in which person's heart, what will resonate with them, and why.

I had been showing a friend what I thought was my favorite and best poem (a pantoum), and she read the one on the opposite side, and said, "This is my favorite!" At the time, I thought the other one was kinda "meh," and could use more work. (I've since done more work on it, and might do more.) So I did feel a little sting, though, that she wasn't talking about the pantoum I was so proud of! But that comment of hers just might have saved the other poem from being left to the "filler" bin.

When I first started in choir, when our choir director ever said anything critical to my section (altos), I assumed he meant me, and if it was something I didn't think I did wrong, or thought I'd worked hard on, I felt hurt and angry. I ended up using that anger, a sort of "I'll show you!" to actually improve. So there's that, too. (In reality, I think he was usually talking to another alto nearby most of the time. He was too polite, I guess, to name names.)

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I reserve the right to change my mind.

My article on the Virgin of Vladimir

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churchgeek

Have candles, will pray
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
I don't identify myself with my car, but if someone were taking a sledgehammer to it, I'd feel attacked and threatened, even if I weren't in it.

And if they criticised it?
This is an excellent question because it throws light on the subject. If I had a car that I really cared about, that I had spent years refinishing for example, then it would matter a lot more to me when someone criticized it than my current serviceable but not sexy car. But then, it would be more reasonable to say that I identified with the car. In other words, the more one identifies with the car -- this car represents all the work I put into it, my seven figure income, whatever -- the more I would feel personally attacked if someone attacked my car by insulting it.
To link these and maybe better answer the OP than my last post did...

I think we'd feel threatened and attacked if someone took a sledgehammer to our car, as that's an act of violence toward personal property that's also our means of getting places we need to go. And it poses a real threat to our person - if they were angry enough to take a sledgehammer to our car, are they mad enough to maybe hurt us, too? Will they be back tomorrow? What else might they do?

You'd feel insecure for quite a while, I'm sure (based on my own experiences of being mugged and having my house broken into).

I think the thing about criticizing one's creative work, one's opinions, or one's identity is related, because it's a different kind of violence - a violence to our self-worth or self-image or sense of belonging, even (depending on what was attacked/insulted/criticized).

That's in fact one of the reasons hate crime is a special category beyond the actual crime (e.g., vandalism) that was committed: because it not only attacks the property and makes a person feel unsafe, but it also attacks their citizenship, their identity, their right to feel safe where they are, their right to belong.

And I think the defensiveness against physical, violent attacks is definitely hard-wired. I also think the defensiveness against less- or non- physical attacks has a very similar basis and is also hard-wired. What might be influenced by "nurture," our culture, our personal experience, our values, etc., is what precisely we hold closely enough to get defensive about.

Interestingly, too, I think we get defensive about attacks on our personal property because we see them as extensions of ourselves - in particular, of our physical selves. So I think in those cases, it's more closely related to our sense of physical safety, but that would depend on whether we think of the thing (a car, to use the above example) more as an object we use on a daily basis to accomplish things we need to do, or as an expression of our identity, or as an achievement of the creative, hard work we've put into restoring it, etc.

--------------------
I reserve the right to change my mind.

My article on the Virgin of Vladimir

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simontoad
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# 18096

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quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
quote:
Originally posted by Tortuf:
This is especially the case with some people who like to plan everything. Even if the new idea, or way, of accomplishing the goal is valid, it is rejected because it is not within the other persons vision for how things should be.
.

This is my husband too.

I’m an impulsive, quick thinker and early adopter. My husband is a slow, careful planner.

I have learned not to put my ideas to him as I have them - he is very negative if I do and that really upsets me. But his negativity, I’ve discovered, is buying thinking time. He simply can’t talk things through! My thought is ‘well it was only an idea, it’s not set in stone, we could at least talk about it’. My idea would have been 30 seconds old at most. But, if he proposes an idea he will have spent a great deal of time thinking it through and have all possible angles covered.

So, these days I say ‘I’m going to tell you an idea I’ve had and I want no response whatever from you, we’ll talk about it tomorrow’. By and large this approach works [Smile]

What a great way to run a relationship.
[Smile]

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Human

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simontoad
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This is not spot on point, but I've had cause to remind myself that behind the avatar, the signature and the post itself is a flawed and wonderful person. One of the beautiful things about this online community is that I am probably trying to teach everyone to suck eggs.

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Human

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M.
Ship's Spare Part
# 3291

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Surely people are their own worst editors. One sometimes needs an outsider to say what is good and what is bad, we can't tell ourselves. If we always think we know best what is our best work, then we end up with 'vanity projects' in films etc - an outside editor is needed.

Very often we don't know ourselves what is good, and it's no good being precious about what we do.

M.

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Anyuta
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# 14692

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quote:
you can't tell what creative work of yours is going to find a home in which person's heart, what will resonate with them, and why.
This.

in the last few years I have started a small side business selling items I have made (polymer clay, mostly jewelry) at various craft shows as well as on Etsy. So many times I will be setting up my booth and as I'm choosing items to display, think "oh, this one is one of my earlier pieces. it's really not very good. it's flawed. it's ugly..." but for whatever reason (usually to fill a void in the display) will choose to display it anyway, only to have people buy it and comment about how great it is, how "unique" or "original". So yeah, when it comes to art in any form, it's just so darned subjective, and you as the creator don't have the final say in what someone will like. Sometimes the simplest things, easiest to produce, are the ones that resonate, even though you don't think they are "worth" the praise.

It's easier for me to accept that when it's just a random visitor to my booth, who actually chooses a specific item. They have no reason to just be flattering me, they are buying the thing because they obviously liked it over other (similarly priced) items. It's not just words then, that I can dismiss.

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Brenda Clough
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# 18061

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So true. And conversely, something that you think is superb may land on the market with a thud. In the end it's important to separate your ego from the work. They become like children; you love them and have done your best by them but then they go out into the world to carve their own way.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer with a Patreon page

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simontoad
Ship's Amphibian
# 18096

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I'm only an artist in my dreams, but I used to feel the same way as a junior lawyer getting my letters ripped to shreds by whomever I was working for.

How do you do it? How do you separate your creative works from your sense of self?

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Human

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Brenda Clough
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The same way you get to Carnegie Hall -- practice. Either you keep on sending the work out and harvest a zillion rejections, or you never send it out and no one will ever see it. Also I never keep rejection letters or emails; they go straight into the void never to return.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer with a Patreon page

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M.
Ship's Spare Part
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As a lawyer (some years ago now) working in a group for a particular project, I and others would regularly write things which would be ripped to shreds by the group. Then it would be put back together by the group and what emerged was without exception vastly superior.

So I suppose I don't understand this link between what I do and what I feel about myself. But then I don't have an artistic bone in my body. Perhaps that's the difference?

M.

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Tortuf
Ship's fisherman
# 3784

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You understand that your works are not you. You understand that help is not a thing to be despised.
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Baptist Trainfan
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# 15128

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Years ago I edited a church magazine. It was always the good writers who said, "Edit this as you please, I won't mind a bit"; and the bad writers who wouldn't let me touch a single letter of their awful prose (or even worse poetry/doggerel).
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Curiosity killed ...

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# 11770

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Group work projects are different - they are all about throwing ideas into the mix to be ripped to pieces, or producing a document for rewriting by others. Not the same as artworks that have personal emotionally investment. I do both and I prepare for them differently.

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Mugs - Keep the Ship afloat

Posts: 13767 | From: outiside the outer ring road | Registered: Aug 2006  |  IP: Logged
Karl: Liberal Backslider
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# 76

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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
Years ago I edited a church magazine. It was always the good writers who said, "Edit this as you please, I won't mind a bit"; and the bad writers who wouldn't let me touch a single letter of their awful prose (or even worse poetry/doggerel).

There's something about church magazines (and of course local paper obituary sections) which attracts the worst poetry since Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings. Generally devotees of the "if the end of each pair of lines rhymes it's poetry" school.

Oh Mum we miss you so
But we know you really had to go
We remember you every day
How you used to sing and run and play.....


[ 13. December 2017, 09:45: Message edited by: Karl: Liberal Backslider ]

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Might as well ask the bloody cat.

Posts: 17929 | From: Chesterfield | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
goperryrevs
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# 13504

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quote:
Originally posted by Og, King of Bashan:
I read a lot of books about communicating with three year olds these days, and one of the most valuable chapters I have read is about how to word compliments. Compliments can be really tricky, and we learn to read negativity into them at an early age. Even when we are three, it's easy for a compliment to come off as insincere or backhanded. I have started doing a lot more specific description of what I see rather than general praise ("I can see how you took that green crayon and followed the line Daddy drew for you" rather than "You are so good at drawing lines!) and I would like to think that she responds more positively. All to say that I think this kind of thing is pretty hard-wired into the human brain, and it takes years for us to learn how to more or less accept challenges as something other than a personal affront. And even then we aren't always very good at it.

(Does anyone else have nightmares where you find yourself having a toddler-style meltdown in front of adult friends, family, or work associates, over some small matter? I have that one a few times per month, and I hate it.)

I read a Psychoanalyst talking about this. It's very interesting. Essentially, over-complimenting can be as damaging as over-criticism for a child's development - even leaving aside the way the compliment is perceived.

Saying, "that picture is the best picture in the world" pretty much means that the child feels it's reached the pinnacle of achievement and doesn't need to try hard next time. It actually demotivates.

It's way better to engage - "why did you choose that colour?" "which bit is your favourite?" "which took the most work?" - and save the high praise for the larger achievements and bigger effort.

When my daughter shows me something she's done, if I'm busy it's very easy to say "that's lovely" and carry on. I've had to try very hard to steer away from that, and actually engage and think. It definitely works. I wonder if the same principles go for adults as with children. We don't want to be praised. We want to be interesting.

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"Keep your eye on the donut, not on the hole." - David Lynch

Posts: 2098 | From: Midlands | Registered: Mar 2008  |  IP: Logged
goperryrevs
Shipmtae
# 13504

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quote:
Originally posted by M.:
But then I don't have an artistic bone in my body. Perhaps that's the difference?

I've spent 15 years in the creative industry, and any preciousness I ever used to have over my ideas has pretty much disintegrated. It's not worth the emotional distress of seeing your "babies" picked to pieces (or just erased) on project after project. Plus, you have to learn the discipline of being willing to cut your own favourite bits, if it's the right decision for a project.

I think I know which of my ideas and creations are best. If someone disagrees with me, I can honestly say that I no longer take it personally. However, I might think they're stupid and wrong [Big Grin]

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"Keep your eye on the donut, not on the hole." - David Lynch

Posts: 2098 | From: Midlands | Registered: Mar 2008  |  IP: Logged
Brenda Clough
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# 18061

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You also have to learn to distinguish between helpful/useful criticisms, and suggestions that won't help the work. The key word here is 'the work'. The goal always is to make the work better, and everything to that end is good; how I feel about is irrelevant.

Ah, but I hear you say, who is it who judges whether the work is improving? Well, that's me, the creator of it. So the trick I guess is to split the work off from you yourself and your own ego and feelings. The novel or poem or song is separate, not me. But as its creator I decree that it is going to be good if we all have to die for it. And as long as it's the work's good I keep in mind it is okay.

To achieve this emotional separation it's sometimes worth ageing the thing. Drop the ms into a drawer for a month or so, and then take it out again and look at it. A number of errors and infelicities always leap out, but sometimes it's delightful. I had to reread one of my own novels after a gap of years, for the electronic edition, and was amazed at how funny it is. The surface plot and character all angst and stress and misery as I had intended, but the funny was a steady undercurrent that had me laughing out loud and annoying the other customers in the coffee shop.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer with a Patreon page

Posts: 6337 | From: Washington DC | Registered: Mar 2014  |  IP: Logged
Martin60
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# 368

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What an ensemble thread. Not a wasted contribution ... Hope that doesn't offend anyone who regrets what they said as mediocre ... how vertiginous is that hall of mirrors effect! Not wasted ... until now.

My only creativity is on SOF ... I need to get out more.

SOF, where my bull runs ... offended in a china shop.

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Love wins

Posts: 17551 | From: Never Dobunni after all. Corieltauvi after all. Just moved to the capital. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged


 
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