When I'm not talking in circles, I can be very frank. Perhaps to a fault.
There are times when this gets me in trouble, but over time, I've learned to harness my matter-of-factness for good.
A while back, a friend recalled that she asked for my opinion on her poetry. While I don't remember being so harsh, she claimed I gave her a pretty bad review. She took that feedback to become a better writer. She went on to publish a book of poetry, she’s even performing her poetry overseas.
I couldn’t be prouder.
Giving an honest critique can be hard when someone is passionate about their craft or project. When someone I love pours their energy into something, I want it to be the best. That’s why it’s important to tell them when their work reflects the best version of who they are, that is, who you know them to be.
Another friend of mine completed her Master’s but had a side hustle she was really good at. Soon after graduation, I asked her how she planned to use her side hustle. She said that prompted her to take a chance. Years later, she is an established freelancer doing what she loves in another major city. I attribute her success to her ability to amplify that skill set she was passionate about. Occasionally, we revisit that conversation. It serves as a reminder that with love, you can push your friends outside of their comfort zone and into their greatness, the greatness you already expected of them.
There’s a fine line between being critical and providing feedback. Psychology Today points out that criticism can even ruin relationships.
That can be a bit tricky to navigate when matters of the heart are involved. It can range from wanting better for my friends to knowing when they can do better as a partner. I’ve admittedly been on both ends of this spectrum.
There are certain questions I have to ask myself before I assert my opinion:
Did they ask for it? I’ve learned it is better to be a listener rather than a critic. When my friend had doubts about a prospective bae, it wasn’t the best time for me to insert an opinion about that courtship. Doing so impacted our relationship. In hindsight and through some hard conversations, I learned that the feedback she needed was about her actions rather than how she should feel. It wasn’t my place to tell her how to feel, EVER. She instead needed me to listen, allow her to feel heard and suggest (not demand) a course of action that could work for her.
How am I receiving this? Is this an opportunity for me to provide feedback or is this an opportunity to be critical? If it is the latter, I temper my opinion to actively listen.
Are they ready to receive it? I was engaged when I sought my holistic life coaching certification years ago. It was an unhealthy relationship. The irony of it all was that I was seeking to help others but doing myself a disservice. The emotional and verbal abuse I endured made me more critical of people and impacted my relationships with family and friends. I only wanted people to cosign things that weren't necessarily true of my relationship. I wasn’t ready to hear any feedback and opinions. It meant that I would have to be a victim. I had my own mirror work to do. When I did the mirror work, I could become a survivor. Still, do.
Am I rooting for them? If it’s a friend, the answer is always 100%. If that wavers, then it’s best not to speak on the topic.
Am I the best person to ask? From time to time, someone would send me a resume or email to review. While I can make suggestions based on the objective, I might not be the best person to consult on content unrelated to my own experience. I might dig into my network and put them in touch there.
Can I be okay if they ignore my feedback? This one can be hard. I am not the most patient and can easily get frustrated when having to repeat myself. I have to be okay with my friends living their lives. I am there to support not hold their hand through life.
It is not my place to fix my friends’ lives. I am not Iyanla.
I can come from a place of love to receive them as they are and hold up my mirror to show them who they are without trying to change who they are.
The definition of mediocre is moderate, not very good. There is nothing mediocre about elevation. There is nothing mediocre about growth. In order to level up, we have to push each other to improve. That differs from criticizing someone for who they are. I called my friends mediocre because they are anything but.
We elevate ourselves when we pull our friends up to be the best versions of themselves, not stepping on or over them to get there. We do nothing in this world on our own, so why not ensure your network finds the tools within themselves to do better.
Other relevant reads
Have you ever been critical of a friend? How did you demonstrate that you are coming from a place of love?