Today was a humorous day at work. One of my coworkers kept on having to repeat the first part of our company’s name to a customer that kept on cutting him off, which prompted another coworker and me to think about the song Umbrella by Rihanna (of which there is an immensely entertaining cover by Train ). While all of this was going on I had another coworker of mine show some appreciation for the reports I do. I must admit that I do not tend to focus that much on praise. I find negative words extremely hurtful, but at the same time I am not someone who is particularly motivated by praise. That said, I know of plenty of people who do greatly value praise a great deal, and so it is important to appreciate people in a way that they wish to be appreciated, assuming they want me to appreciate them. I am aware that others may find it extremely uncomfortable when someone they do not care for goes out of their way to try to show love and affection, and I am someone who particularly hates to make others uncomfortable, knowing all too well what it is like to feel awkward and uncomfortable in a given situation.
That said, when I was struggling to sleep on Saturday night and relaxing yesterday, I read a book that had been loaned to me by a friend of mine who greatly values gifts and words of affirmation. My father was similarly a person who expressed love through gifts (and quality time, and was an immensely dutiful person when it came to acts of service), but given my critical statements about the fact that the book itself continually talked about how to use love languages to enjoy renewed marital bliss , the person who loaned me the book was a bit hurt that I seemed to be somewhat embittered by the book, when it was meant as a gift and as a way of better responding to her own feelings as a friend. And to be sure, I did appreciate the book, and found plenty of use in it. Another friend of mine who had read the book and didn’t like it correctly understood that I appreciated the book even if I found it somewhat frustrating in parts as well, yet the person who loaned the book, as a gift, did not feel as if the gift was appreciated, and may have even felt discouraged about loaning the book only to have them reviewed in my characteristically critical way.
How does one distinguish appreciation for a gift from an often critical view of the contents and approach of the material of that book itself? How does one affirm the kind intents of desiring to be better understood by someone and have someone pay attention to one’s needs and respond to them while expressing frustration about material that assumes the reader is married? In such a context, criticism of the material of a book can be taken but as a lack of affirmation in the person giving the book as well as a lack of appreciation of the gift itself, which means that what was meant as a token of love and affection is instead viewed in a critical fashion. Being someone for whom analytical critique comes naturally, perhaps too naturally, this is an area of life where I could stand to improve where the critique is taken in a personal fashion rather than being limited (as it generally is) to the text at hand. I will have to ponder what approach would show appreciation and affirmation for the intent of my friends, for truly I enjoy reading books and commenting on them, especially where it gives me common ground to relate to others about something, while also providing an honest reflection on the content of the book in particular, in a way that does not offend the gift-giver.
Communication is immensely tricky business. We must know the message we wish to convey, have some idea of how to effectively convey that message to recipients, knowing that it may not reach its intended target or it may reach people who are not the intended audience of a given communication. Or, for one reason or another people will read or hear a difference message than what was meant, for any number of reasons. As hard as it may be for us, and it is certainly difficult for me, we should try to give the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the communication of others, knowing that we all blunder in many matters and could all use a great deal of mercy and understanding. To be sure, we all have our immense sensitivities, and sometimes it is all too easy for these sensitive areas to be ruffled, and we can be sure that others have areas just as sensitive as our own. As it happens, right now I have one of those sensitive areas in my mouth right now, which is bleeding as I write this, all the more ironic since my words, both written and spoken, are the bleeding of my heart and spirit from the wounds of life. Sometimes we all need a safe shade of care and concern where we do not have to face what cuts us, including ill-spoken criticism and critique.