Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Case for Candor

I believe that our lives and the overall society would be much improved by an increase in candor.

So many people wonder why they were "laid off," not hired,or unsuccessful in romance. And don't we all wish our politicians were more candid with us?

And might not America be more successful in competing in the global economy if employers and co-workers gave more candid feedback?

Yes, criticism hurts but would we not be better off, as individuals and as a society, if our friends, bosses, and leaders gave us honest feedback, positive and negative?

And when we get criticized, if, after the unavoidable reflexive sadness or anger, instead of wallowing or lashing back, we forced ourselves to fairly assess if the criticism is deserved and worth the effort to try to improve, and if so, fighting to improve?

Perhaps in urging more candor, I'm being unrealistic--most people don't want to give nor get more feedback.


Anonymous said...

I have listened to your radio show and followed your blog for some time, and it seems you have achieved quite a bit in your life. What more do you want? More acclaim? More sway over public opinion? Or are you constitutionally unable to ever being satisfied?

You have an extraordinary drive to "do" and succeed. But maybe you don't need to put a value expectation on everything you do. In other words, if you will never be satisfied by reaching a certain quota (whether it be 100,000 page views per month or 5 million Twitter followers), why put a quota on your activities in the first place? And could you be content to simply fulfill your drive and not expect a certain result to derive from it?

I know, I sound like a Buddhist.

Mark said...

Marty, A great blog entry. Maybe the issue is that perfection and perfect truth beckons you and when you taste it occasionally you treat it as a standard to live by as opposed to an ideal to enjoy on those rare occasions you reach it. I did house calls to a dying brilliant, internationally known composer who was almost as well known for being an SOB and miserable. He told me that only on five occasions did the music in his mind match the music he composed and he felt frustrated that he couldn't do it every time. I gave him Dr.'s order to leta it go. He smiled meekly and made a little progress before he died.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the Anonymous Buddhist.

You've accomplished a tremendous amount. Continue your valuable work, while relaxing your expectations.

Also practice Buddhist meditation an hour daily. (joke)

Michael R. Edelstein

Robert said...

You could well be right, Dr. Nemko, about the combination of verbal fluency and physical reticence makings things very problematic in childhood. Looking back on my own childhood (which wasn't in the States), I recognize a similar syndrome to yours. So perhaps candor has, on balance, hurt you rather than helped you. (It certainly has hurt me rather than helped me.)

Nevertheless, as other comments have made clear, you've achieved a good deal, what with the sorts of radio appearances - and publications in prestigious print media, not to mention Cool Careers for Dummies - which many of us would almost kill for. This isn't meant to sound either Buddhist or Pollyanna-like, but these are very solid attainments of yours.

Anonymous said...

You're excellent at coaching people for job interviews. Every time I've I've interviewed for a new position or promotion in the last seven years or so, I've re-read your interview tips in helping me. My success rate is high, and you're always a part of it. I could only hope someone could see me as that helpful at my life's work.

scott lubbock said...

My dear friend Marty,
I am in no position to tell you whether or not you have done enough, whether or not you have made the impact that accurately reflects your insight, skill and mental acuity, whether or not you should feel satisfied with your contributions or your invitation to others to maximize their contributions. You have challenged me with your shared thoughts, delighted me with your piano music, impressed me with your dedication to making those who settle for careless or simple solutions uncomfortable, pleased me with your edgy perspectives and have often satisfied my need for meaningful, energizing conversation.

Maria Lopez said...

First off, radicalism of any stripe has to struggle for acceptance. Most people are Burkean conservatives to some extent and do not want institutions to be radically disrupted.

Secondly, remember that if you try to reinvent many things you are bound to strike out on some and the fact that those ideas are unworkable will taint others.

Finally, there are vested interests. For instance I believe you suggested high inheritance taxes. This idea is also present in the Communist Manifesto, written in 1848. It has a lot going for it but is unlikely to be implemented as it offends many wealthy people.

Anonymous said...

In the interest of candor, here's some feedback:

I've found your site, blog, and tweets incredibly useful. Here are some examples: First, I've used your tips in my most recent job search, which was successful in that I landed a position that paid almost double that of my previous position in less than 60 days after my previous position was eliminated. Second, I've used your article from 2004 "Why I Can't Vote for Bush, Kerry or Nader" to get supporting information to convince people with strong liberal and conservative stances on many issues to reconsider them, specifically, to convince a liberal that diversity has a downside.

That being said, there are some things you should consider:

First off, I think you could be more effective if you took a more positive tone of voice to discussing issues from politics to job searching. While it's important to be realistic about problems, it's also important to inspire a realistically optimistic outlook, and also focus on what people CAN change or do something about. For example, in discussing job search tactics, I'd say something like "We know things are tough and there are no guarantees, but there are things you can do to better your odds, and here they are..."

Second, I think your perspective comes a lot from being in the Bay Area, a place that is extremely liberal, and is also performing below-average economically, for reasons too numerous to list. I'd consider talking to folks elsewhere to get a broader perspective. For example, economic conditions are generally more favorable in Texas than California, and people may be better off there.

Finally, I think you're being too hard on yourself and worry too much that you haven't made enough of a difference. If you compare yourself to luminaries like Mother Theresa or Steve Jobs, of course you'll come up short. But if you compare yourself to the average population, your perspective changes. I'd ask yourself instead, "Compared to most people I know, how much do I contribute?"

keep up the good work!

-Your reader in Pennsylvania

Jeffrie said...

The world might benefit from candor. But the world doesn't want it.

Some people don't like to be candid. And most people, even many who are candid, don't want to hear candor all the time from others.

I think it's because we often equate candor with criticism. Destructive criticism is NOT the same as candor, nor is being an asshole just for the sake of being an asshole. Truly honest feedback, even when it's hard to hear, should be welcomed, but it's all the same to sensitive people.

I'm not nearly as candid as I'd like to be at times. I'm not entirely sure it would improve my life if I were more candid with others. Like at work, most of my coworkers are far more sensitive than they let on. I suspect most people are, especially when it involves something they care deeply about, like religion or politics, or some idea that seems to be nearly universally believed, like recycling.

Marty, you've had ideas that many people have disagreed with, like the idea of discrimination against white men. I'm sure sometimes you just want to forget about it, or so it seems. Something keeps you going. Maybe you'll try a different approach, but you deeply believe in your ideas, so I suspect you'll revisit them again before long.

Grace said...

In the workplace, I'm always surprised when my candor isn't received well. I've had an employer interpret my feedback about the performance of the company as a criticism against it and the evidence of disloyalty. In fact, it is my loyalty toward the company and my desire to improve that has led me to call a spade a spade. Last week, a co-worker said to me that, while I was well liked and very respectful/diplomatic at meetings, I wasn't political enough. You see, I walk through live assuming that we all have more power and make more progress if we lay all the information and expectations on the table. My co-worker said that I was making an incorrect assumption when thinking that other people really wanted to hear the truth or had a desire for the company to be more effective.
Her words rang true, and I really appreciated HER candor.

Grace said...

I, like others, have enjoyed this blog immensly.

Watch the documentary "Comedian". It's about Jerry Seinfeld's return to comedy after the end of his sitcom. Throughout the movie, he displays deep insecurity and questions his worth. He feels that he's only as good as his current project...until he has a private audience with the Dalai Lama of comedy, Bill Cosby.

I think these feelings of uncertainty in our achievements are universal. However, at the end of each day, we should ask ourselves if in the day we tried to carry our burdens with integrity and reduce the burdens of another. If so, we achieved success.