Am I being negative?

Some events recently has made me wonder how people see me and my opinions, how I’m perceived. I sometimes doubt I make good with what I write and what opinions I express.

I can sometimes be very direct with what I say about things I see and read; people can occasionally see it as outright blunt. This is also accompanied by a sarcastic and ironic sense of humor, which probably doesn’t make things better. But let me assure, I am really not evil. Perfection is definitely a subjective and relative word, although I always strive to make things as good as they can possibly be. And when I see people not doing their outmost to achieve that, people that just deliver something half-ass, it upsets me.

I’m not saying that everyone has to be addicted to what they do, but in my mind, why spend at least 40 hours a week on something that people know, or at least should know, is barely mediocre? Sure, many do it just to get paid and to live life fully outside their job. And I respect that, I really do. But one thing doesn’t have to exclude the other; being focused on doing a good job shouldn’t automatically mean a poor private life on the side.

We have a short time living and we ourselves are the only ones that can decide what to do with that time, that can affect our everyday situation. Do we want to spend the majority of it to actually accomplishing something, maybe even exceeding our expectations, or do we just want to use that time to fund the rest of it?

My parents have always been fighters and I think it’s the way I was raised; if I want something real bad, I have to fight for it. It sounds like such a cliché, but no pain, no gain. It takes hard work to be good at something, no matter what field we are talking about. And it saddens me that so few seem to even make any feeble attempt to try to make attain something worthwhile.

Henry Rollins made the observation that if you’re 20 and express your feelings in an intense and worked-up way, it’s normal. If you’re forty and do the same, people see you as bitter. He might be spot-on with what he follows up with (Henry, sorry for the, most likely, misquote):

The day I stop caring is the day I die

I sometimes wonder why I get so upset when I see poor code, when I read articles or blog posts from people that in my eyes haven’t done their best when producing it. Perhaps it’s just something that has to do with me. Maybe I waste time, strength and effort for nothing; maybe I get too involved in things that aren’t worth it, and judge people much too hard.

Perchance I should listen and act more according to the wonderful phrase Johnny Depp utters as the Willie Wonka character in Charlie’s Chocolate factory, when a young spoiled girl tries to get his attention:

I can’t imagine why I would care…

There’s is a likeliness that I hurt people with acting so frank, and the possibility that people don’t see me as constructive at all, but just as judgmental, uptight and acting like Mr. Know-it-all. That I never encourage people but only highlight their tiny and highly insignificant flaws.

If I have hurt someone by the things I communicate, I sincerely apologize. It is not meant to be personal; I honestly do aim to be constructive while I at the same time can be tough. If it’s any comfort at all, let me reveal that the one that I put the highest pressure on is me.

Please don’t hesitate to let me know, I strongly urge you to be utterly honest: What do you think? Should I just chill, or am I on a good path? Am I being negative?

19 Comments

  • Jules says:

    Ok, are you stealing from my post? 🙂

    Robert, the reason why you are feeling negative is because you have an ingrained sense of morality and professionalism and what you are encountering and seeing grates horribly with these attributes of your self.

    Perhaps I have never been a target of your negatism (I make mistakes too) but I have never seen this side of you so therefore, it can't be all that prominent. Furthermore, whether or not any of your readers has seen this side of you, you obviously feel inside of you that you are being negative. There isn't much any of us can do other than—for those of us who agree with me—to counsel with you and let you know that we know what being human is all about and we too stumble.

    Take heart in the fact that it appears the Swedish Men's Hockey team has a better chance at a medal than the Canadians.

  • Kurt says:

    Could the perfectionist in you be doing more? Paying more attention to the audience when communicating could be really beneficial.

    I heard this on the radio, and don't know where it is from (sorry) but I think it will help. It helps me.

    "You should say what's on your mind, just be careful of how you say it."

    Also what I have learned is sometimes people are just not ready to hear criticism of any kind. So you will just have to accept that fact and wait until they are. Other times people just don’t care, and no matter what you say they are not going to change. However you should still get them a chance to improve.

    Try positioning your feed back as a gift. People can do what every the wish with your information. Hopefully they will add to it and use it to improve. Most people don’t say anything, I bet you don’t realize home much your insight people appreciate.

    Lastly do you get just as excited and say something when tasks are done "perfectly". Or even someone that gets close. I hope you are already doing this because if not you are just grumpy. Communicating just as much about doing things right has a side effect of people trying to maintain and even improve the standard level. If you are balanced in your feedback then you are a passionate person

  • Aaron says:

    I agree with you and I'm very much the same way. And it burns me when I don't live up to my own standards. I've gotten to the point in my life where I realize that other bloggers will do as they feel comfortable doing… and you know what? I'm okay with that. I am not okay with myself doing less than what I am capable of, however.

  • I must say that I don't see you as a negative person, might be the tone of your posts or something else but that's the way it is.

    I do belive however that being negative is a problem that the webdev blog community have. Of course people are annoyed at the current state of the web, I do understans that, but is it nessesary saying things in this tone?

    I think we all would get through better to the ordinary web developers if we offered suggestions of improvements together with critique.

  • Jonathan says:

    Well, you have never come across as negative or bitter to me. I think a tendancy to criticize just comes with being a perfectionist and loving what you do.

    I've certainly noticed that bad code (be it HTML/CSS/PHP or whatever) tends to bother me. I think that's because I try to hold myself to a certain standard, and I subconsciously hold others to that standard. It seems like when you are really into something (like web development), you tend to treat it almost as a moral issue. It's very hard to accept the fact that most others don't feel that way about your particular line of work or hobby.

    At least, that's my take on it. I dunno if it applies to anyone else, but it's the best explanation I can come up with.

  • Hakan Bilgin says:

    Robert,

    For whatever it's worth, I have never considered you as Mr. Know-it-all, on the contrary my impression of you is more as humble.

    If beeing exposed to criticism, one always grinds on the negative ones. For instance, if twenty people express that they like your new shirt and one says that it's awful, you start to thinking about the one that dissed you.

    This is normal and human nature but remember that one should always consider the source of the criticism. If that person can't dress right why care what he/she thinks? Also, the criticism can come because that person had a bad day or what ever. Listen to what the mass tells you, and absorb only criticism from sources that does matter.

    Now, to express criticism is hard and doing it right is even harder. Either consume your time doing it softly or be cruel and straight ahead. I guess one way is to continue to do what you do best and ignore the rest. With a little luck, others that you have problems with, will absorb your work and thoughts, and join the path you proclaim. If they don't, you continue to evolve in the right direction whilst they in another, probably wrong, direction. And who knows, perhaps you'll join then in their direction.

    Nobody is perfect and it's very common that everybody has different goals and agenda. In my humble opinion (and I have expressed this earlier), you're doing great job and sowing seeds in whoever reading you blog.

    For whatever it's worth…

  • pimmie says:

    Robert, I don't quite follow you. Looking at the many excellent articles you've made publicly available here makes it very clear that you care, and even turned that into something practical (just "caring" means nothing unless you do something with it).

    I don't see criticism as a negative thing though, rather a means to get to better results.

    Yet, I wonder how many people that, are supposedly put off by your criticism, will respond you your call. I think the returning readers are people that subscribe to your thoughts, perfectionists themselves, I know I am.

    It's obvious though that you guys need more sunshine over there 😉

  • Jordi says:

    I can understand how you think you may be too harsh, or dogmatic, or whathaveyou but, as long as you are not openly inflammatory, please speak your mind.

    This is t3h Intarweb, sooner or later somebody will get offended ;). Just ignore those who can't take your words with a grain of salt.

  • Jens Meiert says:

    Er, skipped almost the entire entry, since:

    Am I being negative?

    No. At least not too negative. 😉

  • <joke>You’re one of the most negative people I have ever had the misfortune to come across…</joke>

    Don't worry about being outright blunt, sarcastic and having an appreciation of irony they are good characteristics in the right company. Remember I will on occasion push the boundary further than most people dare, or can handle. 😀

    Anyway, it would take years of practice for anyone to lower, to my level of thought and I am pretty much rhino-skinned and rarely get fazed; “I eat webmasters for breakfast” was a phrase that was coined.

    Honesty, I have never noticed you being negative or offensive on your website from what I have read. You have projected some 'self-doubt' on this post, which probably just stems from consensuses about doing the "right-thing" and just having good moral and ethical work practices.

    You are on the righteous path; just make sure you don't end-up like me, or people will start worrying. 😉

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Everyone,

    Thank you for your comments, really! They mean a lot.

    I take it as a conclusion then that I'm not negative, just very dedicated to what I do and think. Then, naturally, I have to be very clear with my criticism so people will understand it is meant in a constructive manner and not personal.

    Once again, thanks.

  • I'm gonna keep this short, because I wanted to respond earlier but you wanted me not to, and by now others have given a lot of good thoughts already ;p

    Anyway:

    – You're not too negative;

    – You're too nice sometimes;

    – You worry too much.

    "Wha? huh?! 'Too nice' ?"

    You worry too often about possibly offending people with what you write. You worry about offending your audience/readers. You thank people almost personally for each comment they make.

    All that? Not necessary!

    We're not a group of kindergarten kids, we can take care of ourselves, we can handle it if you write something that offends us. If not, that's OUR problem to deal with, and not yours.

    Similarly, a thank you for every tiny little thing someone does for you reduces the value of a thank you coming from you. Don't mean to put you down about that, but when you thank people for every insignificant thing, it doesn't really mean much anymore when someone does something of great importance for you and all they get is a warm thank you.

    You're doing a lot of great, excellent things on your blog — good writing, good code offerings and examples, good stuff overall. Just stick with that and don't worry so much about the rest.

    Or as I told Zach Inglis the other day:

    I realized that audiences don't expect or even want you to care about them

    audiences want you to do your thing

    and stay an audience

    So just do your stuff and be done with that 🙂

  • Oh, and in case that wasn't entirely clear: you're not negative. 🙂

    😉

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Faruk,

    Thank you very much! 🙂

    I guess that's just me as a person, I don't want to make people feel bad.

    Regarding thanking people: maybe I'm overdoing it, perhaps it's too much. The thing is, I'm just very grateful and humble about the fact that people want to read what I write and also comment on it, and therefore I want to express my gratitude.

    I hope people won't regard a thank you from me as practically nothing, the point is noted: I don't have to thank people every time, I guess. 🙂

  • Are you sure that you aren't getting depressed; now that you are beginning to doubt the value of the word 'thank you' and the frequency of occurrence?

    It is clear from the timbre and words that you actually mean why you say with regards to gratitude and the word itself many people don't use it oft enough. Therefore in comparison it may appear you use it more than average, which isn't a bad thing in fact it's good.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Robert W,

    I don't think I'm getting depressed, but I've felt a little down lately thinking about if I hurt people and make them sad. However, it seems that I should go on expressing my views, but at the same time just make sure to emphasize the constructive part of it.

    Perhaps I should just stop wondering, say thanks whenever I want to, and carry on being me! 🙂

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    Am I being negative? “Henry Rollins made the observation that if you’re 20 […]

  • Aniket Ray says:

    Some people perceive the world based of the way they are. We see someone who's doing something contrary to what we would have and believe that what they are doing is wrong.

    Is that being negative or is that just natural? I'm not sure.

    But yes, demanding better work ethics can not be being negative, at all.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Aniket,

    It's a good question, actually. I think the key thing is to try and be respectful and genuine, and people will understand and respect your opinions back.

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