I’ve recently come to the realization that most criticism is ultimately futile, and for a variety of reasons:
You may face obstinacy
Some people just don’t take criticism well. The evidence is there: just take a look at their kindergarten report cards. Unfortunately, the types of people who exhibit brash, offensive, or inconsiderate behavior are also the types of people who will pay no heed to your remonstrances — however well-intentioned.
You risk looking like a stuck-up snoot
Say a friend or co-worker is cracking wise on topics generally considered to be scatological or prurient. What do you do? Indicating that certain conversation is “beneath you” will only make you come across as a holier-than-thou prude. And you also run the risk of being a hypocrite if you someday tolerate — or worse, make — similar comments.
You may be wrong
When attempting to correct someone, there’s always that hint of doubt that your advice is incorrect, inappropriate for that particular person, or could possibly be incorrect in the future.
You won’t be giving the person the benefit of the doubt
Giving someone the benefit of the doubt is actually easy in traffic situations. If someone cuts you off or comes too close, perhaps he didn’t see you, or perhaps he has a higher tolerance than you do for shorter distances between vehicles. If the car ahead of you is traveling below the speed limit or exhibiting inappropriate lane-changing behavior, then perhaps the driver is inexperienced, has low vision, is experiencing an acute illness, is bereaved, or some combination of the above.
However, giving a person the benefit of the doubt can lead to careless assumptions about a person’s intelligence, or lack thereof: “Why does that lady keep bumping into me on the train, and not even apologize?” Perhaps certain motor skills are still too advanced for her small brain.
You may be overlooking cultural differences
Case in point: the mullet factor. Hispanic men are generally exempt from the “no mullets” rule and any criticism relating to mullets.
You may push someone over the edge
Any criticism on your part may be taken the wrong way and you could wind up being the contributing factor to someone’s early demise.