Beware Of Too Much Positive Feedback

Good Vibes Only May Mean Your Friends And Family Don’t Care To Critique Your Work

One of the aspects of passive listening is constant agreement.

You know–endless nodding, smiling, lack of meaningful input.

That’s when you know it’s time to change the subject or–better yet–just stop talking. The person you’re talking to clearly isn’t hearing you.

This happens often whenever people present their work to friends and family–and makes presenting one’s work to friends and family a problem in itself.

In our culture of toxic positivity, no one wants to be the one to rain on your parade. Most people who love or respect you think it’s great you’re venturing out and doing work outside your 9–5 and are probably not going to tell you what they really think about that work.

The “everything is awesome” culture will win most of the time.

Some people will be honest and tell you if what you wrote stinks–people who respect your potential more than your feelings. But most people are so used to others’ wearing their feelings on their sleeves that they’re loath to provide negative feedback.

To be fair, this isn’t entirely their fault.

Few things annoy me more than having a friend or family member ask me to opine on something they did and get mad when I’m honest.

Many people simply value your friendship more than your work. They figure this is just a writing bug you have to get out of your system. So, they indulge you.

Everything you write is awesome! You’re awesome! Keep up the good work!

This is especially true with fiction manuscripts. People assume that you’ll get offended if they suggest you should backtrack and rework hours of writing–so they tell you it’s great–even if they know publishers will never agree.

We all like positive feedback. We want to be told our writing is great.

Maybe it is. Maybe you’re just such an awesome writer, that your friends and family find it as good or better than anything they’ve read recently.

But therein lies another problem.

If this was 30 years ago and you asked untrained normies to review a manuscript, they probably would have finished three books in the previous month. Today, you’re lucky if you know people who completed three books in the previous year.

And, no, audiobooks don’t count. Audiobooks are incapable of inculcating a reader with the reflexive critical eye that the written word can.

Unyielding positive feedback from friends and family doesn’t automatically mean they aren’t interested in giving you honest feedback or don’t care about your writing. You may just need to emphasize five or six times that you won’t get offended if they think something could be reworked.

But if after emphasizing that you aren’t thin-skinned, they only have positive things to say about your manuscript, maybe it’s time to seek out people who don’t know you.

Lots of college students are looking to make coffee and beer money. Seek out two or three English majors, give them a couple of Andrew Jacksons and ask for honest feedback. Trust me. You’ll get it from them.

Originally published on Medium

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