A number of years ago, my husband, a great lover of non-fiction and self-help books, bought a copy of The One Minute Manager. Now, we were teachers and this book seemed to me to be for those stalwarts in the business world. Nevertheless, he did talk to me a lot about this book as he read it.
And that is how a book I’ve never read has had such a positive effect on my life.
As I understand it, The One Minute Manager suggests that people need to hear what they are doing well, in addition to what they need to improve. In the first thirty seconds, tell your employee/student/child what they are doing wrong. Then tell them what they are doing well.
I remember an incident where I had to keep a student after school for something he did. Well, basically, he was acting like a jerk and continually disrupting the class. (I phrased it better than that.) Then I mentioned his good record of finishing his homework and his pleasant personality with the other students. By ending the interview with his good behavior I was able to send him away on a positive note and the problem never resurfaced.
We all like to hear what we do well. It gives us a place from which to move ahead and do more things well.
Writers are no different. We love to have people tell us what they liked about our work, but this doesn’t always happen. My critique group has been pretty good at balancing the negatives with positives, a situation which I appreciate. This is not always the case, though, and a totally negative critique can have the opposite effect to what is intended. The writer is left to think there is nothing good about the work and might even consider giving up.
In the past few months I have had some excellent critiques on The Loyalist’s Wife, my work-in-progress, but always I have had to stop and think in order to recover before I can go back and fix the problems. Am I sensitive? Yes, I suppose I am. This is my baby, you know. Imagine having someone tell you your child’s brilliant blue eyes would be much more suitable if they were brown. You get the picture.
But I suppose the thing that would help me the most is critiquers telling in detail not only what doesn’t work but also what works very well. Find something to like and to praise. A little praise goes a long way. One of the most detailed and ultimately useful critiques I’ve received lately was prefaced with a note saying all she mentioned was the bad stuff as that was what needed work. My thought is that I can much more easily work on the bad stuff if I know what it was that was good. If I have a reason to keep working on the manuscript. And so, I thought, once again, about The One Minute Manager.
Have you ever had a scathing critique? Have you read The One Minute Manager? How do you approach the job of critiquing your group members’ works? Consider leaving a comment to weigh in on this topic.