Giving And Taking

Monday June 3rd, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   Today was a trip down a two way street. I dealt out a few doses of constructive criticism while teaching my comedy class, but I had taken some of my own before I got there. It was all meant to uplift and improve, and that’s how it was taken by everyone involved. There was growth today.

   Criticism of anyone’s work – constructive or not – is an extremely delicate process. To achieve maximum benefit, it has to be given in exactly the right dose. Too much and it turns into nothing more than a personal attack. Too little and the message doesn’t get across. It has to be done right.

   My father was a perfect example of how not to do it. He had an uncanny knack for deciphering someone’s biggest weakness or shortcoming – then pointing it out in a mean spirited way right in front of everyone. He could be wickedly funny – if it wasn’t YOU. He was the original ‘Simon’.

   His words of criticism were anything but constructive, and lo all these years later I still flinch a little when I remember some of the nasty things he said – especially to those who were supposed to be the closest to him. They still sting years after he’s dead, so that’s why I try to be a lot nicer.

   There is no need for personal attacks, and there is an art to getting the message across so that a person receiving it can reap the benefits and not just sit with clenched jaw and hurt feelings. I’ve seen it happen countless times, and try to avoid it like the plague. Today everything worked fine.

   Before comedy class I met with my friend Todd Hunt. Todd volunteered to listen to the DVDs of my ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows from April and offer his input. I have ultimate respect for Todd and his input, as we’ve developed a working relationship over years. I’ve helped him by adding a few punch line suggestions to his business speech, and then he decides if he will use them or not.

   Many times he has, and it’s been a constant work in progress as long as I have known him. Our roles have been reversed, and now he’s the one making the suggestions. There was no need for a buffer, as we understood the process. I wanted him to make suggestions and not only did he offer input, he got it from someone else who had never seen the show. I got twice what I had expected.

   Todd happens to know someone who is originally from the Milwaukee area and has experience in the entertainment field. He played my show for her to see what she’d think, and she in turn did it one better and threw in some very helpful suggestions. I knew immediately this would be a big help. Todd offered some solid input as well, and I’m excited to add it all to the mix immediately.

   Todd and his friend were ‘fresh eyes’, and they both had the right demeanor. They were trying to make improvements, rather than just throw out half baked opinions based on half thought out ideas. There was a plan there, and I totally appreciate both of them taking time to make the notes they did. Todd is very good at what he does, and always has been. His effort will not be wasted.

   There were no hurt feelings, or ignorant comments as can happen all too often. How often have I had to sit across the table from some halfwit who starts his or her dimwitted diatribe with a line like “Here’s what’s wrong with what you’re doing…” After that, nothing else has any meaning.

   Saying something like “Here’s a point you might consider” opens the door without insulting or belittling, and is much more professional. That’s what Todd did with me, and that’s how I make a point to do it in my classes. At the end of the day, it all worked out exactly how it should have.

My friend Todd Hunt is a great business speaker.

My friend Todd Hunt is a great business speaker.


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