It is often difficult to give something or someone of considerable significance a poor review. I believe it’s derived from fear that your critical judgment will be mistaken as rude, arrogant, or ignorant. Because of such sensitivity I often find others, and myself, believing our cowardly behaviors to be optimism. And outwardly embrace the popular positives that inwardly are of a contrast nature.
Constructive criticism is widely regarded, but most people are too sensitive to confrontation to realize its benefits. Instead of telling a waitress that my coffee is not hot enough I’ll say everything’s fine through an in-genuine smile, planning to never return. Such behavior is common – and specifically prevalent in service industries. Where the only feedback received is almost exclusively delivered through anonymous channels.
We accept such behavior as selflessness – a feeling of sympathy for another’s feeling. I imagine it quite the opposite, because in truth we are only protecting our own. I’m not worried whether I’ll damper that waitress’s day. Or, God forbid, offend her in any way. My concern is how such a criticism would affect her opinion of me. And because of that, such an act, or lack of one, is one in which you protect your own ego – not another’s feelings.
Further supporting this belief is the probability that if a true concern were benefiting the other, one would politely report such criticisms. The reason being that doing so would present an opportunity for another to remedy the prevalent issue. If I comment on the lukewarm coffee, the waitress has an opportunity to better serve her product, other customers, business, and so forth. Thus, the negative connotation associated with criticism is one that delays positive change and selfishly safeguards ego.
I began contemplating this subject yesterday while walking through the city of Vienna, Austria – the countries cultural, economic, and political center. In accordance with its excellent reputation I caught myself tempering my own judgments. Falling back on non-critical optimism as a scapegoat to avoid formulating what seemed to be a controversial opinion. I was thinking in a very lame way – too timid to say the coffee is cold.
With only a full afternoon and evening ahead of us there was not much time to spend exploring the city. After just a few hours of touring, though, I’d adopted an opinion of Vienna that I felt a bit uncomfortable calling my own. Because with respects to those who lack the opportunities I’m often given, I feel obligated to appreciate every experience as if I were them.
Vienna was not a city that I enjoyed visiting – saying so makes me feel pretentious. Coincidentally, the reason I didn’t value my time there is because I felt that it was pretentious. The main road was a jungle of western retail stores, making it feel too familiar to be interesting. And at the end of that road stood grand buildings. Each one of them with such a bold presence they seemed untouchable. As if to be in their presence was a great privilege. There was no intimacy.
Being in Vienna was a similar experience to being in a nightclub. It was a scene. I wasn’t concerned with whether I was enjoying my time, but instead if I seemed to be enjoying my time. Chasing a shallow fulfillment that is so widely accepted from being so easily attainable. And looking around I felt that everyone and thing was too refined – giving the place no character to be valued or learned.
Cities like Budapest, Sarajevo, and even Athens grabbed my interests because of their intimacy. They were historic as any other, but not pretentious about it. They didn’t guard their history – they shared it. The crumbling buildings seemed vulnerable, as though each split stone were a scar possessing a story. Due to that vulnerability, everything felt comfortable.
Never would I suggest that someone not visit Vienna. Both Micky and Dallas had much more positive reviews of the city than mine. However unless I have a meaningful motive to return, I doubt I will find myself traveling through again.