How I love the Eurythmics. Their songs, videos, lyrics and how the three come together to give the viewer a snapshot of their view of the world is pure genius.

Of course, the song that comes to mind (as well as the striking video) is Sweet Dreams (are made of this). What are sweet dreams made of? In the decade of greed, the 80s, capitalism’s wet dream was having access to masses of people not inclined to think for themselves and taking on deals (be it in employment, share market, stocks, bonds, etc…) where they’d inevitably lose.

Nowadays, things are getting better. Capitalism had a few losses and fails and is learning from its greedy ways of the past. Some corporations are putting thought into things like “culture” and giving people room to “create”. They’re throwing money at designing more human work spaces and phasing out the cube farms of yesterday which looked like prison cells.

All of this is being done in an effort to get back to the basics. Human-centred design is where it’s at because the powers-that-be have realised that what’s being produced at a dizzying pace is for humans and whoever produces the most helpful, most human product and service is going to win the people’s monetary vote.

However, the very people who are used to absorbing the marketing messages (that they’re not adequate) and acting in ways dictated by a larger system (to take deals that short-changes them) have not truly healed or moved forward from the trauma to truly appreciate their own value or the value of well considered and well-made goods and services.

Or maybe I’m running into the ones who have issues with their self-worth as I’m going through my own healing process.

Be it in networking functions or in my personal life, I’m trying to do work with some honest to their own goodness people. I keep getting frustrated because the people I run into keep pushing non-essential items onto themselves and onto me. They major in the minor, if you will.

I tolerate it and then after the third interaction with these people frustration kicks in. I start getting a little passive aggressive. I come out and ask them whether they can please not waste my time with loads and loads of stuff to do which amounts to absolutely nothing.

When they come back with technical issues that waste my time and theirs, I tell them their time is more valuable than handling these issues which can be automated or outsourced to people who don’t run their own businesses.

Oh, and some of them look after these technical glitches for free because they’ve been suckered by for-profit organisations to do this work in exchange for a leadership title. These people have their own businesses to run and they’re doing free work which adds no additional skillset to deem them more valuable. I shake my head and can’t hold my tongue.

These are business people who should be well-versed in where money comes from.

They should be obsessively protecting their Queen Bee Role the unique stuff that brings in the money to their business, usually a role the founder is best to provide (for now, until they’re ready to step away from the business) instead of looking after technical issues of a badly set up system.

Or… the worse is the professional (who’s an acquaintance) offering to lower her hourly rate for me. There’s no need to do that. Yes, I’ll pay a lot but I’ll get more value than I paid, right? Nope. She doesn’t think so.

She can’t even give me certainty as to when she’ll have time to start working on my project because she doesn’t protect her time.

That didn’t give me much confidence to go with her for the editing work on my book about putting value on time. I didn’t want anyone not putting value on their own time to edit my book. She would devalue it.  I want to stay away from any lack of integrity in bringing this book out. If the central theme is “value your own time and the world will respect and pay you what you’re worth” then I better not work with anyone who doesn’t value their own time.

So here’s how the interactions with the business masochists goes down:

Acquaintance: Oh, I feel obligated to connect you with some people I’m not even sure would need your services, that I don’t even know very well because I’m the leader of this networking group. Here, let me waste my time and yours by shooting several intro e-mails.

Me: Surely, this is not an essential thing that needs to be done. You’re way more valuable than running around making loose connections between people.

Acquaintance: What would you know? I’m comfortable with this stuff and I don’t appreciate your hostility.

So I cut them out and make a point to not talk to them about business. If they wanna call me and talk about their feelings, yeah, OK, I’ll chat to them for a bit but associating with people who don’t value their own time usually means they’ll end up wasting yours.

Also here’s what I learned about being a little more tactful in offering my criticism of how others work.

  1. Know your motivations. I will always ask myself whether I’m engaging to lift this person up and be helpful in some way.
  2. Consider the emotional state of the recipient. I’m bad at this as I usually respond very bluntly and in writing as opposed to perhaps trying to have a phone conversation. Usually they think my tone is hostile and this may very well be the resistence and hostility in themselves coming to the surface.
  3. Stay calm and collected. This is important. If people are unwilling to graciously receive what you’re trying to give to them in good faith, don’t waste any more time with them. Let them go. If it’s meant to be, they’ll be back.

Criticism is not a pleasent thing but it is necessary. As Winston Churchill remarked, like pain, it points to an unhealthy state of things. The best we all can do is accept the gift of feedback gracefully and fix what’s wrong.

Over to you…

When was a time you gave criticism to help someone out just for that person to get hostile with you? How did you feel and what lessons did you learn from that experience?