December 20th, 2016
At what point does being helpful become complaining?
We have a home in Florida that we use as a vacation rental. We do our best to keep it looking and operating at peak efficiency and comfort. We have great guests, and people seem to enjoy their time while on vacation.
Ed and Gretchen were excited to spend a month at our home and promised they would treat our home just like their own. Except, every day Ed and Gretchen sent me an email about what they thought we should do differently.
“Your pool cleaning company doesn’t do as good as a job as they should. You should look into getting a new company.”
“Your neighbor doesn’t cut her grass often enough. You should ask her to keep her lawn neater as it affects your lawn.”
“The shower drain doesn’t drain very quickly, perhaps a call to the plumber is in order.”
And so on.
At first, everything was positioned as being helpful. They knew that we didn’t live nearby, and they knew that we wanted the house to be perfect for our guests. The first couple of days the emails didn’t bother me. I saw Ed and Gretchen as trying to be helpful.
By day four, it became our daily complaint email. I no longer saw them as being helpful, but as being extremely critical, and somehow indicating that our home was not good enough.
By the end of the month, I dreaded seeing their name in my inbox.
Are you an Ed or Gretchen? Do you see yourself as being helpful, but others see you as being critical?
At work, do you make suggestions such as “If you use a mail merge on that, it will save you a ton of time instead of doing it manually. Do you want me to walk you through how to do a mail merge?” or “You’re still using a Times Roman font? That is so 1990s! Didn’t you know that you should be using a sans serif font now? I suggest you Google that and make the change.”
I’m guessing that when we make comments and suggestions we don’t intend to be condescending or critical. However, they are likely to be perceived that way, especially if you do it frequently.
Here are a few ways to ensure that you are helpful, and not being perceived as critical:
Is the person I’m sharing this information with in any position to implement my advice http://ctt.ec/S5d1c+ @RhondaScharf
The same is true of telling a store cashier that they need more cashiers working during busy times. They can’t do a thing about it, are not likely to bring that information to their boss; and you will be perceived as complaining and not at all helpful.
Offering the occasional piece of advice or feedback is not always bad, but if you are consistently doing it, you might want to question if it is well received or not.
Count how many times a day you offer helpful feedback. If you are offering this help at least once per day, let me give you some unsolicited (and potentially unappreciated) feedback; STOP!
Count how many times a day you offer feedback to others. If it is more than once; STOP http://ctt.ec/M647b+ #feedback @RhondaScharf
– As appeared in The Huffington Post on December 20, 2016