Tuesday, 11 October 2011

On correcting people

So, I heard that people don't like to be corrected. Apparently it annoys them. One would therefore assume that my habit of correcting people isn't generally taken to be a charming idiosyncrasy, but is instead taken to be one of the symptoms of my general annoyingness.

Having thought about this carefully, with a little guidance from Henry (who found me to be overly critical, and would probably have done well to tell me about that at the time), it has become apparent that I need to stop correcting people. Furthermore, I need to chill out about when people do things that are not my way, and refrain from judging them. Judging other people is also seen to be a bad thing, I believe.

Why would a person correct another person, though? What right does person A have to say to person B "It doesn't work like that"?

From my own point of view, I correct people for (I would guess) three reasons. The first reason is that I perceive a problem with something they are doing, and want to save them the hassle of doing it in a less efficient way, then having less good results, having to do it again, or possibly breaking something, or failing to achieve the original purpose. That has a certain amount of usefulness when I myself am correct, and absolutely no usefulness at all when I am incorrect (except that I get experience of being wrong, which helps me to learn, and I get taken down a peg or two, which is probably very good for me).

The second reason I correct people is because they are making a grammatical mistake, generally while speaking, or a mistake somewhere in their writing. I will generally do this because I believe that good spelling and grammar are intrinsically better than poor spelling and grammar, and that by correcting something I am both helping with that person's education, and helping to make their particular piece of writing better.

The third reason I correct someone is if they are both really annoying me and, to my mind, wrong. I do this to annoy them back.

The first two reasons for correcting people do appear to be motivated by good intentions. I believe that the road to Hell is paved with them. Lucky me. The third is not, so it may not send me directly to Hell. This is, to my mind, a positive thing.

I think that the question of when to help people is a good one. As is that of how to help people. Is it a good thing to help people, or is it better to leave them be?

I wonder if my "helping" people is not a problem simply because it involves words and not actions. Having said that, sometimes actions can get in the way, too. Sometimes, it's best just to let people get on with their own thing, and to help them to pick up the pieces, if necessary. Also to learn from their way of doing things.

Ooh - this is a spectacularly poorly-written and thought-out blog post. Sorry about that. Perhaps I will edit it, or perhaps you can correct me in the comments. It will annoy me a little, I expect, but one should be prepared to take what one dishes out.

Hey - I've just felt an entirely new sort of despair - one that I've never felt before. Wow. I hadn't realised despair could feel like that. It's a feeling that came up the front of my chest, went over the top (only about halfway), and came back down the middle - it felt like it went round my heart and told it it didn't deserve to be happy; it felt like newly-reborn and unexpected hope being snatched away because it was wrong to be hopeful in the first place, and I was stupid for thinking otherwise. Isn't it fun to be human, and to experience all of these feelings? Ha! Oh, the joy of being alive.

Anyway, I have resolved to stop correcting people unless they actually need it. Examples of people who actually need it include people to whom I am providing an actual educational experience (they don't need correcting, generally: they just need to be asked the right questions so that they can correct themselves), and people who just asked me whether or not what they just said, did or wrote (or what they are about to say, do or write) was (is) correct, and people who are just about to run a red traffic light.

Regarding judging people: apparently that's God's job. It is acceptable for me to judge the standard somebody is reaching while I am teaching them, so that I can help them to improve (it's in the job description), and the standard of people's work if it is my responsibility. It is acceptable for me to judge the behaviour of my children (who, fortunately for them, do not exist) so that I can ensure that I am parenting them to the best of my ability. It is acceptable for me to look at somebody else's behaviour and decide that it is not something I should be doing myself. I'm not convinced it's acceptable for me to judge much else, though. Comments?

In other news, the job's wonderful. Taking it seems, so far, to be one of the better decisions I have made with my life. If I go to work in a bad mood, I tend to feel better by the time I leave. I did three hours of overtime today, and it was a thoroughly pleasant experience. Speaking of which, I must get myself an audio book from the collection and get to bed, in preparation for a long journey, followed by a long day, followed by another long journey tomorrow. And a 6am start.

Actually, starting work at 8am feels normal now. I hate it just as much as I used to hate 9am starts, and get it right an awful lot more often. Now 7am is the new 8am. My 6am start, of course, refers only to the time I have to wake up (I leapt out of bed as the alarm went off at 6am this morning; clearly I had been a bit anxious about oversleeping); I don't have to be in work until 7. At which point it will be dark. Again. I have keys today, though, so I can pick up the van and scarper as soon as I arrive. (You should see the size of my keyring today. Usually it's quite big, but today it has an extra bunch of keys I borrowed, and a van key attached. It is more than twice as big and heavy as usual, and that's saying something.)

Oh, what a change: talking about work makes me happier. May it always stay that way.


amenlugo said...

" Is it a good thing to help people, or is it better to leave them be? "
i think we all have less trouble if we let people be.
Nice diary

Abi said...

Yes, we do have less trouble if we let them be. Should we always be looking for less trouble, though? Is it not worth going to some trouble to help people? It certainly isn't worth going to trouble to hinder people, though: where to draw the line?

Thanks for the compliment! :-)

Mel Binks said...

I'm struggling with this at the moment .. and out of boredom at work googled the topic and stumbled across your post, I like it :) I'm constantly correcting people, mostly just trying to help but it sometimes (aka very often) comes across as very know-all and I can see their annoyance plainly on their face. Sadly for me, it seems to be impulsive and I'm not being very successful in curbing the habit. Hope you're having more luck! :)

Anonymous said...

Great post. Raises some interesting questions.

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