Generous Skeptic

~by Patrick McNerthney

As we discussed in Lesson 4 (that’s right, this is a college course, and there will be a test), any kind of work we do inevitably results in a final product that’s subject to judgement. For example, Fine Art Miracles has a habit of encouraging people to create artwork. And no matter how much they emphasize the pure fun and massive benefits of simply being creative, these finished products practically demand judgement from any passerby who happens to see them. On a more personal note, my family and I decorated for the forthcoming holidays during this past Thanksgiving holiday. Which is funny, because doing a bunch of work during a holiday for another holiday doesn’t make any of it feel like a holiday. Or is that just me? One of our decorations (wooden star with fluffy fabric on it) got bumped or something (it wasn’t me) and fell down. Since I’m pretty much a hero, I took what professionals call initiative and re-established this symbol of hope and light, utilizing one of those sticky hook things that I wish I’d invented as if I had I’d be vacationing in the Italian Riviera right now. 

Here it is: So in this moment of experiencing feedback I have two choices.

Option 1, which tends to be how we all roll, is to become defensive, or angry, or otherwise absolve yourself of the unsolicited input. Hmph.

Option 2, is to take a breath and ask yourself, “Why is she asking this question or providing this input in the first place?”

(I chose Option 1, which was largely unproductive.)

I wish I picked Option 2. It’s a way to “flip the script” on feedback. Imagine what happens when we suddenly see someone’s input as a generous contribution, their skepticism a tool to make things better. After all, if someone cares enough about us, our project, our work, our customers, (or in my case my home) to talk to us about it…well, that’s a lot of effort, a lot of giving on their part. They are helping us make the positive change we seek, by showing us what we’ve been missing. In essence, they’re helping us help others. How often do we give this gift ourselves? I know I don’t do it nearly enough. In our work and personal lives it’s far easier to remain silent, to not be a generous skeptic, to not bother with feedback.

Because that’s work, hard work. We have to think about what we’re saying, be logical and coherent, while potentially crossing a social boundary, putting ourselves out there, leaving ourselves open for rejection and criticism in return. Or worse, what if we put in all that work only to see things revert to the status quo? Or what if our difficult conversation make things worse?

But adapting the mindset of both giving and receiving generous feedback opens up the possibility to amplify what we do well as individuals and organizations. And it keeps positive change in motion for those we seek to serve.

At Fine Art Miracles we’re on a mission to improve the lives of vulnerable populations suffering from social isolation as the pandemic continues through a potentially dreary and scary winter. Our Art Therapy Classes and other resources are big ideas that can positively change our world. We’re not satisfied with the status quo, and we want our community (and ourselves) to act as generous skeptics.

Please tell us what you see that we don’t, how we can reach more vulnerable communities and spread the word, where we can improve, and what we can offer that is currently unavailable. It’s a gift we’d love to receive, and we truly appreciate your help. And take this posture of generous skepticism with you into your world – we’ll all be better off for it.In the meantime I’d better go rehang that star – it looks kind of goofy the way I did it.

Beautiful right? Except my wife pointed out I did it wrong and the hook is visible and thus the whole operation looks like it was done by a lazy frat guy (I got kicked out of a fraternity during college, long story. And take this posture of generous skepticism with you into your world – we’ll all be better off for it.In the meantime I’d better go rehang that star – it looks kind of goofy the way I did it.


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