78. Critical Questions

Just on my (delayed) way home from an otherwise succesful live-talk about the last Inca Princess.

I’ve done these historical talks – a hobby of mine – for years now. Good fun. Good side-income.

This one went well, too. Sort of.

On our way to the station the local organizer of the institution that had hired me to give the talk had a comment.

The only comment from her side:

“You say ‘right’ too many times. It really annoyed me.”

And: “Don’t curse with this audience”.

I believe I had cursed once or twice as I got into it.

I really felt I had connected with the audience, but this person’s only stinging remarks about the quality of my show hit home.

They were much more poignant in my mind than the applause, the questions and the otherwise good feeling whilst doing the show.

Like Char says, about when she was a travel guide:

“One bad experience is all it takes for the guests to forget 12 good ones.”

That goes for travel guides as well, I would like to say. And keynote speakers.

Let’s look at it logically, though:

I don’t know how many times I said ‘right’. I don’t know how much it bothered the other 50 people there.

Same with the one or two curses.

So by all accounts, even if it was not perfect (I know I get to ‘messy’ in my talking when I get eager), then the logical assumption would be that I did a lot more to give a lot more people a good experience than vice versa.

Some women in the audience even commented on my drawings for the sliders and said they were very compelling, very moving.

Why do I not think more of that comment? Why do the negative comments always hit harder?

I don’t know.

Maybe I – we – want so much to be perfect because we have been taught early on that a ‘pure record’ is the only way to be appreciated.

In school. By parents. By peers.

Maybe. It seems deeply ingrained.

And obviously something that still gets to me, despite years of experience.

The organizer is right about it being ‘annoying’ if somebody says “right” too many times. I think so.

But what are the standards. Who gets annoyed by 12 “rights”? Who gets annoyed by 25? Who gets annoyed by 5 in a row? Who feels 5 in a row constitutes the whole talk?

These kinds of critical questions usually short circuit when I am critiqued. I have to make an effort to call them up.

I want to improve. But I don’t want to feel like the dirt that she made me feel …

… willingly or unwillingly.

(Some people just gun for you unconsciously and think they do you a favor by telling you in no uncertain times why you gave them a bad experience by not living a 100 per cent up to their expectations.)

Maybe she did, maybe not. It doesn’t really matter.

People are people and I will not be able to do this for years to come without running into another person who gets annoyed with me for some reason.

Last time this sort of situation happened … was when somebody in the audience came up to me afterwards and looked at me very knowingly (it was an ancient old lady, of course). Then she said: “King Charles’ name is ‘Karl'”

I had used the French name and not the local, Scandinavian equivalent. Damn …

Or maybe people who like to drip poison like that and have nothing else to say are the ones who should say ‘damn’. (Especially if they have a problem with a single curse during a two-hour talk).

Maybe they should say:

“Damn, how did I get to be like this? Somebody who bites first and then later bites again?”

The organizer was right about me. And I’ll do better next time. (Which is tomorrow.)

I’ll do better …

I’ll ask all of the right questions about how I actually performed.