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Hello to my friends—If you don’t want my honest opinion please don’t ask me for it. If you ask for my opinion, my honest opinion I will give it to you. Take it for what it’s worth. I won’t offer it at all unless it’s asked for, but because I am a writer with a degree in writing people often ask me to look over something that they’ve written and give them my “honest opinion”. But I am always forgetting and forever being reminded, that when someone asks me for my honest opinion they almost never really want it.

I worked hard through many years of attending a school where my focus was on writing, whose primary grading system was to use written feedback instead of grades;(punctuation is NOT my strong suit LOL; commas and I will always duke it out) and in the many years since then, to learn to both take and give constructive feedback (my opinion) or as some people would call it, criticism, on what works and doesn’t work when a written piece is read. I’ll be the first to admit that this was not always easy for me. Personal insecurity makes it difficult for most people to hear anything that doesn’t agree with their worldview without some sort of reaction, usually defensiveness in all it’s many guises, I can agree that I’m one of them too, and I work hard to manage my expectations. Through the process of my education I learned to provide an opinion (feedback, criticism) carefully couched in the positive. I will always try to find something (and maybe a lot) to say that is positive about your; paper, action, work – (I never give totally honest opinions about –kids, relationships, homes, outfits or haircuts– too subjective and personal, and hey, what works for you works,far be it for me to tell you otherwise), and then any feedback I have to give I try to provide only if I have suggestions or examples of how it could be—fixed, better, clearer, more constructive, etc…I stay away from personal attacks and concentrate only on the work that’s on offer. I feel that between all of the years I have spent writing, and the many, many more years that I have spent as a voracious reader of anything written that I am ably qualified to respond to someone’s writing.

So when someone asks me for my opinion, “be honest, I want to know what you think”, and then proceeds to dismiss it as useless; “All done, nothing can be changed,” or “Well, I’ve already changed it three times and I’m not going to make any more changes,” or “I’ve already had someone far more qualified than you look at it and they don’t think it needs anything else,” then quite frankly I’m annoyed. DO NOT ASK ME FOR MY OPINION IF YOU DO NOT WANT IT! I work hard to craft a thoughtful, positive response and don’t appreciate being told that my time has been wasted.

If what you really want is for me to look at something that you’ve done, such as your writing, and tell you that it’s fabulous then say that. I’ll be happy to tell you, my friend, that you’re fabulous and let the rest of the world tell you that it isn’t true. There’s certainly enough of that out there, and we can all use a cushion of softness and love around us. I’m all for that. So if what you really want me to say is, “You are fabulous!”, “Your writing is fabulous!”, “I wouldn’t change a thing!”, then I am happy to tell you that you are fabulous, your writing is fabulous, and I wouldn’t change a thing. But if you ask me for my opinion, my honest opinion, then I will take the time to craft a response, give it to you and I’d appreciate it if you would take it as I gave it, with thoughtfulness, and the belief that it is offered as support for improvement not negative criticism of you personally.

As you can probably tell by the irked tone of this post, I was recently asked for my opinion, my honest opinion, by someone I know, who once knew me well, but hasn’t known me at all for many years, and doesn’t know the process I’ve worked for the last fifteen years, for my opinion, my honest opinion, on something that they wrote. In hindsight, and really, knowing this person from all those many years ago, I believe now that what they were really asking for was that I tell them they are “fabulous”, and they are, but perhaps they thought they had to manipulate me to get that. I don’t know for sure, but I do know that I won’t be offering them my “honest opinion” again anytime soon. We’ll have to know each other much better again before I take that kind of time and put in that kind of effort.

Postscript:

But I will say that discussion forums on the internet are fair game and if you put something out there that I think is ignorant, rude, thoughtless, stupid (you people know who you are) I will give you my opinion
and don’t care if you like it, because by putting it out there you left yourself wide open.

On the road taken

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