Chilling Corner in February asks: Constructive criticism – a good guy or a bad?

Constructive feedback or criticism is the key that unlocks the door to success in all areas of life. Unless we have a magic wand most of us need to keep working on learning our crafts. Feedback keeps us on our toes; working to improve is a forever mission. Yet so many rush to criticise without any real thought behind their words, and not just with books.

Dictionaries use words like guidance, usable, useful, and the word building will also make an appearance when defining constructive. These are excellent words, geared towards explaining clearly and honestly why the person finds the subject in question appealing or not. Thus, the receiver sees possibilities, and feeling positive channels energy into doing better. Unfortunately, a lot of people see things differently. They miss the opportunity to help, genuinely don’t see it as such and constructive loses the ‘con’, adds a ‘de’ and becomes destructive. It’s a choice.

As I’ve mentioned previously the female lead in my next novel has a Greek background. I wanted to understand better what that means. For some reason I focussed on an old film from my years watching Bill Collins on The Golden Years of Hollywood. If you don’t recognise the name and the show by the way, then you missed a treat. I never missed a single week listening to Bill present a film. Jovially he would point out the good and the bad unlike who in this case gave our Boy on the Dolphin a two-star rating.

 The film is about uncovering sunken treasure and how differently treasure can be perceived. The bad guy wants to hoard, thinks only of monetary gain, the good guy wants it shared by the world. He prefers it kept in the country of origin as proof of the enormous contribution Greece has made to the world. Phaedra (played by Sophia Loren), the one to discover the sunken treasure, is torn.

She needs money for her family to survive but not if the price is a betrayal of her country. Corny acting aside, the film focusses on the struggle she faces. She represents a generation with her fierceness and her canny intelligence who had to leave their homeland to find that survival. They still do. I wanted some of that feeling for my lead female.

The wonderful closing scene when the Boy on the Dolphin (an archaeological treasure) comes ashore to find a place in a Greek museum, brings a tear or too to the eye. Yes, it’s a melodrama and some things could have been done better but the feelings evoked, now they aren’t too bad at all. The film puts greed in its place, and shows us that a lack of education, opportunity and money does not preclude honour. Also staring Alan Ladd, and Clifton Webb (playing the rich but bad guy) the film is from 1957. Did I love it again on revisiting? Yes, I did because I didn’t have expectations that it might pale in comparison to the magic of the current Hollywood technology. I watched it, the film knowing the era it came from and understanding some of the limitations.

Why are we so quick to criticise without qualifying it? Think about it? If we find the positives, we can build on them. If we concentrate on the negatives, then how can we get better. One of my favourite scenes in the film is when Sophia sings a song in Greek and there is such poignancy in the music and in her voice that somehow represents the essence of Greece. Often a better film might never give us that moment. My Saturday nights with Bill taught me to look at the good and the bad and build from that.

Old film, overacting, melodramatic? Maybe. Enjoyable? I have to say yes. Knowing the film is not perfect is overridden by the moments it touches our heart.

I hope you like the song.


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    • We are all so guilty of doing this. I think we have a right to opinions and expressing them but we need to find the good as well as the bad, to give us hope. I always think if someone tells us the right way, we listen (even to that face in the mirror).

  1. After reading Louise Hay’s book, I understand why I even find “constructive” criticism hurtful…. because it is often very subjective…. and unless it’s asked for or expected by the receiver, it often can be more damaging than constructive.

    • I agree but just two days I had a interesting thing happen. Someone complained how unfair people had been in rating her book. When more than five people say the same thing then I’d hope that you might revisit something, give what is said some thought. Not this person, she just thought they were wrong. Funny enough the comments were encouraging and constructive.
      I suddenly understood how even hurtful can keep us realistic. Damaging is how we choose to take it. I admit to being sensitive but more than anything I want to get better at what I do. We just need to be thoughtful in what we say.
      Thank you for taking the time to visit. It is so encouraging.

      • Exactly…. so unless someone asks me to give them a serious critique… I prefer to give them encouragement on things that they have been doing well… so that they may continue:)

      • This is especially hard on books because sometimes the way or the topic may not be suitable for one reader but okay for another…:)

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