Tuesday, January 26, 2010

False Praise and Mediocrity

A good friend and I have a running joke: "every woman needs two types of friends during a breakup: the friend who will tell her the guy was a loser and no one ever liked him anyway, and the friend who will tell her that he was a great guy but this is still for the best."

Both types of friends - the ones who will tell you what you want to hear and the ones who will tell you what you need to hear - have a place in life. We would be emotionally out of balance if we only had one or the other.

As far as the wedding industry is concerned, however, the first type of friend is in abundance and we need more of the second friend. Sometimes I see a dozen or more tweets or blog comments telling someone their website redesign is "fabulous" and I wonder if we are looking at the same thing. I hear people tell others that their idea is fantastic and a game-changer, when it is anything but. And most recently, I have seen people launch entire new business ventures, at the advice of others, that have no viable way of making any money.

It is socially acceptable to give false praise, which only results in more mediocrity. Honesty doesn't have to be delivered in a caustic manner, but it does need to be delivered. Blind spots are called that for a reason; you can't see them yourself. Surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth about your business - even when you don't want to hear it.


Charlotte@rockmywedding said...

Really appreciated this post, we have met some really lovely people in the Industry who give us useful and genuine advice. Others - not so much.

I tell someone if I think what they do is great and if I don't think it is then well...I just won't say anything at all. For me blogging is about discovering things I love and sharing with others. Above all it's about keeping it real.

Garrett Nudd Photography Blog said...

Very well said, Liene. I've seen this thing a hundred times!

Megan Clouse said...

Great advice and I agree!! I recently sent an email to a commercial client asking their feedback on a recent photography project. I was nervous about their response, but knew it was the only way I was really going to step up my game!

Jeanette LeBlanc said...

Incredible post and very timely for me. I think I'm still looking for some of those people, especially as I'm about to make big changes - but I appreciate the wisdom in being prepared to hear hard truths. Better now, than later.

Thanks for writing this. Lots to ponder.

Leona said...

Great post; we do need both types of friends in our personal life. But too much false praise in business and it makes you question if you are listening to a friend or not. It may not always be great to hear at the time but honest constructive criticsm is what we all need to keep growing.

Vitaliy Prokopets said...

Amen to that! I don't think there is anything wrong with being positive, but giving insincere flattering words is not authentic and in a way can be used to put another person down. I yearn for authenticity, even when it's something I don't want to hear.

Shayna said...


I think you're correct that people have to seek out critics as well as supporters to vet their ideas.

I also think it's a weakness of social media, though, that most of the time we're not hearing the whole conversation. Sometimes we do give honest, critical feedback - it's just that 140 characters may not deliver the message carefully enough. Facebook may not be the forum to tell someone that they need to learn to spell, or that their website looks suspiciously like everyone else's, or that their idea is just plain dumb (sounding).

Good ideas and bad ideas are both launching points for brilliance. I hate to see a friend fail (and I'm not afraid to be the critical voice), but I'd rather see them try something than nothing. I'd also rather they recognize that "one guru does not fit all" (i.e. that there is a spectrum of what can work) and that, like you suggest, getting opinions from all sources will give them the best chance at choosing a smart path.

Thank you for putting together such powerful insights. They are very valuable to this industry.

Blair said...

Tell it Liene. This post made me think a lot about how important it is to be honest when asked for advice. You may cause someone a moment of discomfort, but save them years of hard work and money by being straightforward.

Khris Cochran said...

Building strong relationships, beyond the sychophantic mindset of social media, is such an important component of running a successful business. Without my trusted friends and advisors I'd be lost.

For me it is sometimes extremely hard to let go of ego and hear things I particularly don't want to. However, the moments that I've welcomed constructive criticism have been the ones that have made me a better blogger, business person, friend.

On the other side of that is to remember that your mediocrity may be someone else's fabulous. And vice versa.

I do believe that we should collectively support and give kudos to other business peeps when it's sincere.

julianne smith said...

this speaks to the old saying, if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all. i think that if you are going to comment in public about someone or something it should be positive. save the constructive advice for one-on-one. that's my opinion. but even more bothersome than over praising, is using the phrase that someone or someone's business venture is going to change the world. i'm shocked at how many times i see and hear this phrase being thrown around in the wedding industry. talking in this drastic of a tone i think is far worse than telling someone job well done. don't you?

Emily said...

Very well put! In art school, I always used to fear "crits." But, the truth is, I walked away from them, especially when I had to swallow what I didn't want to hear, prepared to make better pieces, and to put to use the constructive criticism I had received.

Additionally, I think that many folks put too much emphasis on being accepted in social media, and that making false praises is a way to gain followers. Authenticity is so much better. =)

Thanks for the great post.

Chandra Keel said...

In starting my business a little over a year ago, I never gave too much thought to the nice things people had to say (and still don't). I appreciated their kindness but I knew that many were saying it just because that was the nice thing to say (there were some who I knew were genuine). But that wasn't helping me. I asked because I needed feedback, not a pat on the back. If someone is afraid to give constructive feedback, it’s probably because they don’t know how to say it. If that’s the case, it’s better to be quite. My biggest pet peeve is when I haven’t even asked for feedback from someone and they are still inclined to give me a fake pat on the back just in an effort to build their [fake] network. In the end, it has taught me that when I want to give positive remarks to someone, I tell them why I think XYZ is great. That way, they know I mean what I say.

Liene Stevens said...

Just want to clarify - I don't think the honest feedback needs to be given via social media - it just needs to be given when asked.

Cherin - Customized Wedding Creations said...

I'm reading this as I'm watching American Idol (haha), but this show is a case in point for this blog posting...at least for me. The varied judges on this show, both in the past and the present, have different levels of validity. Personally speaking, I never listened to Paula and always respected what Simon had to say. Being nice didn't really get the job done. Being truthful, though it may have been tough to swallow, really helped to mold the contestants into true competitors.

I think the same can be said for the types of advice we receive from our "friends." People who are just being nice aren't being effective. It's the hard truth that makes us stronger and better in the long run.

Thank you, Liene, for an inspiring and thought provoking post.

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