Last week I gave a workshop on social media marketing to a very small group. It was interesting for many reasons, but one thing in particular kept coming up that was driving me nuts.

One of the participants knew me, fairly well I guess, but obviously not well enough. Both before and during the presentation, even though he didn’t know my topic, or as much about it as he thought he did, he kept offering suggestions for doing things better. Frankly, I’m not one of those people who accepts unsolicited advice because I always question the reasons people are trying to give it to me, but it didn’t stop this guy. The thing is, he kept finding fault in this thing or that thing and I do believe he thought he was offering me constructive advice.

The problems are multiple in this sort of thing. One, it was my presentation, not his. It was a 5 hour presentation I had to break down into 4 hours because there was a big traffic problem and everyone was more than an hour late.

Two, there are things you do when putting together a presentation, and even if you have to speed things up and leave some things out, when you work om something that’s going to be long you have to have your plan for making sure everyone gets out of it what you’ve promised them you’re going to get out of it.

Three, he even admitted that his agenda was much different than mine. He was hoping I would solve a problem for him that had nothing to do with what I was presenting on, and thus he kept interrupting and asking questions for his own benefit without regard for what other people may or may not have wanted to learn. That’s pretty selfish if you ask me.

Four, during a break, I mentioned how I was balancing the presentation for a broad audience because I know that people who come to these types of presentations either don’t know anything about it or know something about it and are looking for more information. He told me that later on he’d tell me how I could do it better; thanks for nothing.

Here’s the thing I’ve seen. When all you can do is tear someone down, they tend to always work to the least of their ability because they don’t believe anyone will care of they can do better or not. What’s the point in giving 16 kids the same size trophy and not giving the kid that won a larger trophy? That just teaches him that there’s too much effort in being the best because that kid will never get any special recognition for it.

Everyone does things differently. If you don’t have anything positive to say to someone, you should keep it to yourself unless you’re asked or unless you have to say something. In business, you can’t allow someone to keep making mistakes if it ends up negatively impacting the job or the product. However, even in business people have to be themselves, and making clones of every employee means there is no original thought, and there’s no impetus for finding better ways to do something. There isn’t a single company in the world that wasn’t formed, then improved, without an original thought.

The Japanese believe the worst thing you can do is take away someone’s pride. Americans seem to thrive on doing it; at least those who believe they have any kind of power over someone else. We’ve lost the ability to be courteous and take other people’s feeling into consideration. This need to break down what we see in others to try to build them up just doesn’t work.

This doesn’t mean we can’t be somewhat honest with people at times. If I have a friend giving a presentation and I’m asked afterwards what I thought about how the presentation was given, and I said “you did a great job, but did you notice that after almost every sentence you said ‘okay'”, that’s a constructive comment to a colleague who asked. If I wasn’t asked, I’d never volunteer the answer because it’s not my place, unless it was a best friend of mine. There are things we can do with our best friends that are inappropriate with people we just know.

For the record, one of the other participants came to me after the presentation and thanked me for it, saying she didn’t know any of the things I talked about and was fascinated by it all. She said she hopes to come hear me present again because she liked my style; that felt good, and since she was the market I was aiming for, I know I did what I showed up to do. My way worked for her; I’ll continue doing it my way, while making sure I never break down any other presenter for how they did something, unless I was asked. What about you?