When I was younger, I used to take advice (even kind, constructive criticism) extremely bad. I hated when people offered me “lessons,” different perspectives or new ways for me to do things. What was wrong with the way I was doing things? When I was in Elementary School (heck, probably up to when I was in high school), I’d throw fits at my dad for trying to teach me how to play basketball better. Poor guy. Being the high school basketball star he was, he was just trying to throw his daughter a few innocent pointers. Little did he know I’d throw a temper tantrum and scream at him because of it. Yeesh, you’d think I’d at least say “thank you.” After all, I was terrible at basketball. I couldn’t make a lay up and I’d lob the ball full-speed at the backboard. All he was trying to do was help, but I wouldn’t let him. Ever. (sorry Big Guy) Needless to say, I never became star of the basketball team in high school. But maybe I could’ve?
Now, I definitely take advice a little more openly, as we should. Imagine if we all treated people who offered their words of wisdom as I treated my dad with basketball. It’d be a scary world, huh?
Today, I witnessed this kind of constructive advice at it’s best. I was at the gym for my first day working out at Benefitness, an all women’s gym in my area. I know, all women’s gym, weird huh? It was actually surprisingly refreshing! I didn’t have to worry about big macho muscle men “working in” for a set or staring at themselves in the mirror, and I didn’t have to worry if I looked *pretty* as I sweat away (OK, I never really look pretty at the gym anyway). AND I had no distractions as I sped away on the elliptical machine, although this may be a bad thing as good-looking men usually make me run harder (I’m crazy and hormonal, I know).
Back to the point. In the midst of all my non-distractions, I let myself drift away into a workout high, that I almost didn’t realize the woman next to me was trying to get my attention. I was dumbbell squat thrusting like I’ve never done before and nothing was going to stop me. Then I realized the woman next to me was still staring at me, this time with concern (and hesitation). “Excuse me, I’m sorry, I usually try not to say anything, but I just have to tell you something.” Shit. At first, I thought I was in her way or I was breaking some sort of gym “rule.” But indeed it wasn’t that at all. “You’re really going to hurt your back the way you are doing that exercise because you’re using your back to pull up. Maybe try a lighter weight. What you’re using is quite a lot for your size,” she continued. She stared at me in fear, waiting for my rebuttal or annoyance of her “interrupting” my workout. But instead, I was thrilled she spoke up to me, and shout out a sincere “Thank you.” And I really meant it. I was so happy that someone was brave enough to tell me what I was doing wrong, and then further advise me on how to improve to do it right.
I went on to tell her to please not apologize as I was truly thankful of her tip. After all, it is my back we are talking about here (something I want to be strong and in place when I’m older) so of course I don’t want to be doing anything that’s going to hurt it. Of course, it also had to do with how she said it. If she came over to me and ripped the weights out my hands and told me I was inexperienced and shouldn’t be in the gym, I wouldn’t have been too happy. But she offered me some advice, then gave me a solution. What’s the harm in that? It’s a shame that we feel nervous or wary to give other women advice, because they may go all Monster on you (like I did on my dad). If you have a different perspective to offer someone, say it. If you know someone is doing something harmful to their bodies, tell them. If you see a coworker doing something incorrectly, help them. Really, we need to learn to be more open to one another, and learn to help other women. At the same time, please be open to advice when it’s coming your way as well. It’s not an attack, it’s a different way of doing something and we need to learn how to accept that. A personal attack is a whole ‘nother issue, but constructive criticism should be praised, not shunned.
Do you get touchy when someone offers you advice? Are you ever afraid to speak up to other women? How do you handle constructive criticism?