Public Humiliation

Why do some workshop leaders feel the need to be rude and condescending? People attend workshops/conferences to learn and improve, not to be treated as if we are idiots (which some of us are…but still…that’s why we attend these workshops…to become less idiotic).

I had a heartbreaking experience at a writers’ conference over the weekend…as did many of my fellow attendees. Lots of public humiliation and badgering in the guise of critiques. In hindsight I should have protested—not only when I was the target, but as I watched one after the other of the writers get verbally punched and jabbed. The less-than-tactful agent—whose dramatically pliable face reflected disdain, horror, and disapproval as writers shared their work—was the buzz of the event. His questions and tone of voice mimicked his facial expressions. He was disrespectful, to put it mildly.  

During the two-hour drive home I was listening to an audio tape of Dan Ariely‘s new book: The Upside of Irrationality. It so happened that one portion of his book focused on an experiment that showed how easy it is for one person to suck the meaning out of our work and drastically decrease motivation. Based on that particular experiment, Ariely concluded in the book: “If you’re a manager who really wants to demotivate your employees, destroy their work in front of their eyes.” Or to get the same effect, simply ignore the work. Both acts resulted in a drastic decrease in production.

On the flip side of that experiment, those whose work was acknowledged in the simplest manner were so much more productive. Think how much more productive we all could be—at work, at home, or maybe even while exercising or dieting—when our efforts are acknowledged with a simple “thank you,” “attagirl,” “way to go.”

Why not provide a little positive encouragement or acknowledgment today? Two words work wonders: thank you. I bet the results would be the same in your family too. Try the “thank you” test. Do you think it works?

I know I was ready to toss my manuscript in the shredder by the end of that 2-day conference (actually I left early because I was so deflated.) I’ve been in critique groups before and know it is possible to provide feedback that is motivating and helpful. What’s your favorite motivational tip for fellow writers, employees, or family members?

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One Response to “Public Humiliation”

  1. Monica Bhide says:

    This is so terrible. I am so sorry you had to go through it.

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