I know this will sound ridiculous coming from someone who routinely attacks multibillion-dollar industries for a living, but no matter how big of an asshole someone is, you shouldn’t criticize them … At least, not in public anyway.
In private? Go to town! I mean, be careful because everyone has a smartphone (re: recording device) and your Amazon Echoes and Google Assistants are all listening to your conversations, but what you do behind closed doors is your business. As long as you’re not hurting another adult (without their consent), I don’t care what you do. It’s your business and no one else’s. But in public, and that could mean at work, on the street where anyone can hear you, on stage, or really anywhere you interact with your fellow humans, you never want to criticize anyone.
Now, to be clear, this doesn’t mean you have to be an ass kisser. In fact, I strongly recommend you don’t ever become one because most people are pretty good at detecting flattering bullshit, and honestly doing that sort of thing eats away at your soul. You should always praise what other people do and accomplish because there’s nothing any of us on this planet want more than to be loved and appreciated, but you don’t want to be a dick about it and just aimlessly flatter people. It’s not a good look. So don’t be an ass kisser.
If you have something you want to criticize that someone did, focus on the action and never on the person. (All that happens when you criticize someone or argue with them is make them dig in their heels even more. There’s zero point in arguing with anyone because all too often it accomplishes nothing but pissing everyone off.) And when you do want to criticize an action, don’t start and end with, “That was fucked up.” That’s not productive. It’s hilarious. But it’s not productive. Instead, talk about what happened with a focus on being constructive.
Don’t: “Hey, Joey, I know your thing is to leave a riddle at every crime scene, but that’s been done before, and nobody likes fucking riddles.”
Do: “Hey Joey, the police look like they’re onto us. Neither you and I want to get caught, so I think we should change up our tactics.”
See? Constructive versus Not constructive. Privately, you can plan to kill Joey if you want, but in public, that’s not the thing to go with; Also, you probably shouldn’t kill Joey. Murder is one of those things I have to strongly advise against. Plus the constructive line above focuses on a mutually beneficial outcome. Remember: People are assholes. They think about themselves nine times out of ten, and if something isn’t in their best interest, it’s exceedingly rare that they’ll do it.
You may be thinking, “Hey pal, I go to church and love Jesus.” And sure, you might, but you go to church because you don’t want to go to hell when you die and because you want your friends and family to see you share the same common beliefs they do, which affirms their decision to make you part of their social group. Nothing against religion at all. I’m an Atheist, but I’ve gone to both church and temple and fully endorse people having faith if that’s what makes them feel happy and fulfilled. But. From an objective point of view, going to church, or temple, or a mosque, serves our self-interest in one way, shape, or form.
I think, out of all the life advice there is to give, “don’t criticize people” is honestly the hardest one to follow. A lot of this advice should seem like common sense, but it’s often not, so it’s worth repeating in the event someone missed it the first time. And a lot of this can be categorized as “Easier said than done,” but out of all of them? This is the piece of advice that’s the hardest. Especially because we’re all irrational people looking out for ourselves.
We make irrational decisions all the time. You can’t convince me otherwise, nor should you because it’s almost impossible to get people to change their minds through an argument. You want them to come to new conclusions on their own by exposing them to new information subtlety.
Here’s a great example of an irrational decision I make all the time. I’m prone to cavities, and yet despite flossing, brushing twice a day, and routinely using mouthwash after lunch and dinner, there is no force in this universe strong enough to stop me from sitting down and hogging a bag of Reeses Peanut Butter cups while watching “Gotham.” “Gotham” sucks, and yet I continue to watch it because I love Batman. The Peanut Butter cups are awful for my teeth, and yet I continue to eat them almost every week that the show is on. I know both of these things are bad for me, and yet I continue to go ahead and do these actions anyway. I’m irrational, and so are you in some way, shape or form.
I think that’s great, by the way. Being perfect (which involves being hyper-rational about everything) is boring. That’s part of the reason I hate this push for machine learning and deep learning algorithms in every aspect of our life. It strips all the fun away. As the villain in The Incredibles said, “When everyone is super, nobody is.” That’s what our algorithm-fueled lives are going to look like. There’s no magic. It’s just here’s the thing you want, when you want it, and you can just fuck off from the world and live in your own little bubble forever with a perfect, but profoundly empty, life.
Refusing to criticize someone in public is different from falling into that trap because you’re still going to address, and hopefully correct, the behavior that’s fueling the criticism in the first place. You just have to be smart and do it differently than how we’ve been told to do it in the past. You focus on the action, not the person, and you focus on the action in a constructive way that appeals to that person’s self-interest. No one wants to be a fuckup. We think we’re legends in our own minds, and we want to continue thinking so. That means we want to correct any behavior which may make us seem less awesome in front of our peers. Never, ever forget that we think we’re the hero in our own story; Even if that’s not always the case.
Here’s one final reason you shouldn’t criticize anyone though. Aside from the often cited Thomas Carlyle quote people read in “How To Win Friends and Influence People” that goes, “A great man shows his greatness by the way he treats little men.” If it’s true we are irrational and selfish, then the other reason not to criticize or condemn people is that it makes you a more appealing leader in your social group.
I know! I know! Wouldn’t it be great if I just focused on peace, love, happiness, and how we all live together in harmony? Nope. I’m not your guy for that. If my thesis is correct then you don’t want to criticize or condemn people (publicly) because it’s a bad look for you among your peers; Nobody wants to work with a complainer or someone who wants to add to a number of problems they already have in their life to deal with. People want leaders who propose action and offer a kind, or at the very least constructive, word about what happened and what needs to be done next. We want direction, is what I’m saying, and we’re not going to take it from some asshole who wants to tear down people at every turn. That’s a lesson I should have learned back when I sent this guy a picture of my own poop. Hey, he wrote me hate mail and totally deserved it, and it’s a lesson I should have learned with “Social Media is Bullshit” when it first came out. So take it from someone who’s made this mistake more times than I care to admit. Don’t criticize anyone publicly and be the leader people need. And if that doesn’t work … Well, I guess you can send people pictures of your own poop too, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
(Ok. I totally would. The look on that guy’s face was priceless, but we’re all mature adults here, so we’ll pretend this isn’t a funny thing to do to someone you hate.)