As a public relations (PR) professional I do a lot of writing. Writing is one of those things that is subject to individual tastes and preferences. A writing style that one person may like, another person may disagree with and dislike. As such, writing is difficult to quantify and is one aspect in business that often draws a variety of very strong responses.
Writing is a skill. If somebody possesses the writing skill, I believe they have a huge advantage over those that can’t write and use that skill as an effective communication tool. Similarly, I believe the ability to edit writing and provide valuable feedback that will improve a written piece is just as valuable a skill.
I used to work with a guy that when you asked him to edit a writing piece he would simply change adjectives in an effort to prove he had read the entire piece and to try and demonstrate that he was adding value. For example, if you used the adjective “wonderful”, he would change the word to “fantastic.” For the most part, changing an adjective to another adjective that means the same thing but may reflect a personal preference is meaningless.
Several years ago I worked with a woman who, when faced with a blank word document or blank piece of paper was at a total loss. She couldn’t begin writing a press release or even an e-mail for that matter unless something had already been started for her. Once somebody had started or provided the first draft she was very talented at picking whatever it was apart and making it better.
I’ve also worked with people that will read or see something, provide their opinion, usually that it’s inadequate in some way but lack the ability to provide feedback into what would make it better. These type of instances are the ones that drive me most crazy. Not just in editing a piece I’ve written but in any scenario. These types of critiques exist in any aspect of life, not just writing. What makes it worse is that they believe they can get away with this type of criticism.
For me, I’m fine if you don’t like something I’ve written, the way I’ve done something or if you have expertise to share that will help me learn or improve the way I do something. In those cases, a simple, I don’t like that doesn’t help or do me any good. I can take criticism, but I also expect to hear an opinion on what will make it better or improve it.
With that in mind, here are four tips to avoid being “that guy” that doesn’t like things but can’t explain why or provide input to improve or make something better:
- Explain why you don’t like it. It’s easy to say you don’t like something but sometimes even harder to explain why. Before I tell somebody I don’t like something, I like to know why I don’t like it so I can communicate it and share why instead of simply proclaiming that I don’t like it.
- Provide recommendations as to how to improve it. Part of explaining why I don’t like something includes my suggestions and recommendations for improving it. In these instances, I try to be as honest as possible while offering up some solutions to the problem. Nothing drives me more crazy, especially in a business setting than somebody saying they don’t like something without providing a reason or tips or advice on how to make it better. In my writing example above it’s easy to say you don’t like an article or another form of writing but requires more effort to help find a solution or to make it better.
- Be honest. Honesty is always the best policy. It’s also the most difficult part. By being honest you demonstrate that you care and want to help make the project as good as it can possibly be. For me, I always appreciate honesty and respect the person more if they can be honest with me, even if the truth might hurt.
- Be open to push back. Chances are the person you’re critiquing will push back and challenge your assertion that the project isn’t good. More than likely they’ve invested a significant amount of time and energy into the project and feel ownership and a sense of pride in what they’ve produced. Listen to what the person says and the reasons behind the way they approached the project or did things they way they did. They’ll appreciate this and at the same time you’ll gain valuable insight into their approach. From this you’ll probably be able to provide better insight and advice on how to improve the project.
Feedback or criticisms can be hard to hear sometimes. However, I find that a critique of my work is easier to swallow if it’s accompanied by an explanation and a recommendation of how to fix or make something better. I also believe that a simple declaration of dislike is the chicken way out. It’s way to easy to do that but far more rewarding to be able to take the time and explain why and offer solutions
Jeremy Kartchner is a Partner at Snapp Conner PR and has more than 15 years experience in both technology and sports PR. In addition to his responsibilities with Snapp Conner PR, Kartchner also works with the Utah Jazz as a member of its Game Night public relations staff where he is responsible for tracking and providing game time statistics for local, national and international media and conducting pre and post game player and coach interviews. He’s a sports fan, golfer, father of three, husband to one hottie, partially bionic, cavity free, Olympics junkie and wanna be blogger.
Jeremy Kartchner | Google+